The revival of men in spandex at your local gym and CrossFit box isn’t some weird tribute to 80s exercise videos. New research finds that tights can help you avoid dreaded post-workout pains.
“When compression garments are worn during and after heavy exercise, they appear to reduce muscle soreness,” says Jessica Hill, M.S.c., a U.K.-based exercise scientist who authored a 2013 review on the topic, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
It concluded that people who wear compression garments after their exercise sessions experience less soreness and faster muscle recovery than people who rock a more traditional gym outfit, like a t-shirt and shorts.
When you work a muscle group hard, it can become inflamed. “When we experience an inflammatory response we get an increase in fluid and white blood cells to the affected area. This leads to swelling and increases in pressure, and therefore pain,” says Hill.
Compression garments “work” by constricting your muscles. That reduces the amount of fluid buildup, decreasing the swelling and pressure.
“Compression garments also may increase blood flow to the muscles, which removes creatine kinase, an enzyme in your muscles that leaks out after muscle damage and can cause the ache,” says Hill.
The tight gear isn’t salvation from soreness, though—it only helps.