The science of sports dressing

Charlotte Cooper summarizes the science behind sportswear...

Charlotte Cooper
15th November 2018

From Primark basics to Lulu Lemon luxury does it really matter what materials our sports clothes are made of? Actually, Yes!

Whilst I’m not about to suggest you fork out £78 on a sports bra from Lulu Lemon, I would recommend you look into what materials your gym wear is made from because the truth really is in the science. The terms ‘breathable’ and ‘moisture reducing’ are thrown around when it comes to brands such as Nike or Adidas and we are told these materials help us ‘Just do it’ creating the mindset that ‘Impossible is nothing’ but are they really essential?

Sports and exercise physiologist at the St Mary’s University London, Dr Jessica Hill, explains that some sports garments are more important than others. She believes that the likes of compression clothing don’t actually give any advantages to athletes during their sport. Compression garments are said to increase blood flow and therefore allow larger amounts of oxygen to be taken in. Dr Hill however, suggests there is no scientific proof behind this theory.

So, why do Nike, Adidas and Puma all produce a range of compression-like clothing for athletes? Nike’s famous Dry-Fit collection is made of polyester materials which apparently keep the body dry allowing athletes to work harder for longer and have a more comfortable moving pattern. Adidas have also launched their version of dry technology clothing, Adizero. First used by professional footballers in 2014 Brazil World Cup, Adizero is designed to enhance ventilation and to feel like a second skin on the players.

But, researcher at Heidelberg University, Dr Engel, suggests that the effects of compression isn’t strong enough to enhance the performance during sport, but it is during the recovery period. Once athletes have finished exercising it has been suggested that the technology in compression garments help prevent injury. Puma’s tight jersey material used in many professional team kits uses a compression tape that is stitched into the clothing. This stimulates specific muscles used during performance as well as aiding breathability and freedom of movement.

[pullquote]Sport and gym-going has become the latest trend and with high street retailers stocking their shelves with gym leggings, vest tops and trainers, there is a vast range of clothes available[/pullquote]. From the thin, cheap materials that some activewear is made from to the more supportive and luxurious fabrics the question is how much do I really need to ‘improve my performance’? For those of you who go to the gym once or twice a week or play 5-a-side on a Saturday maybe breathable, dry compression technology isn’t a necessity for you. But, for those competitive souls looking for that advantage I would have a look at what your go to exercise outfits are made from. After all, full body swimsuits didn’t get banded in 2010 for no reason, maybe all the aerodynamics really do shave off swimmer’s time.

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