Gone are the days when men wore baggy basketball shorts and an old T-shirt for every workout. You’ll still find those guys, but plenty have caught on to the innovative apparel that can help make exercise more comfortable, cool and possibly effective. Competitive runners may have thought nothing of heading out the door in long running tights on a frigid morning, but knee-length tights for men are less common. Although these may seem a length reserved for women, men can benefit from wearing exercise tights at the knee, too.
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Exercise tights can keep you warm and can help cut down on chafing. Any type of tight offers a mild amount of compression, which helps increase blood flow, keeping muscles warm and supple. Certain types of tights are made from compressive materials that add an extra bit of squeeze, potentially enhancing these benefits.
When to Wear
Full tights might not be the best choice for a bike race or half-marathon in the spring, as they can get too warm as your body gets moving. However, shorts might be too cool for an early start. Women often choose capri-length tights for such workouts, while men jump up and down to stay warm in their shorts. Men can choose exercise tights that end at the knee, too, to get a perfect amount of warmness.
Compression garments come in knee-high stockings, tights, shirts, shorts and knee-length tights. Studies show mixed results from wearing these types of garments. In a September 2009 issue of Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, U.K. researchers noted that lower-body compression garments may reduce post-exercise muscle soreness when worn after exercise. Another study in the January 2009 issue of the same journal found that male runners experience significantly higher anaerobic and aerobic thresholds when wearing compression stockings. However, the study also surmised that it was the compression at the calf muscle that improved performance; tights that end at the knee do not offer such support. In the December 2008 issue of International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, researchers reported that lower-body compression garments did not enhance the performance of male cyclists.
No studies have examined the benefits of wearing tights that cut at the knee, and research on the effects of other types of compression clothing shows mixed results. However, if you feel they help your performance or recovery, no harm is done by wearing them.