March 7, 2017

Rob Duffield, Mark Watsford, Val Chan

Sport & Exercise Discipline Group, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, Moore Park, NSW, Australia.

High physical demands exist in construction and mining industries, as workers are required to lift, carry, transport and manipulate heavy loads. Movements performed are often repetitive or prolonged in duration, resulting in physiological and psychological fatigue, and consequently impact on worker health and safety. In the sporting context, athletes employ a range of strategies to accelerate recovery following exercise, increase their readiness to train and undertake larger training loads. In particular, compression garments have become a popular post-exercise recovery tool given their ease of use and proposed benefits. More specifically, although there is limited evidence showing physical performance benefits of compression, many studies report improved perceptual measures of recovery and fatigue i.e., muscle soreness, vitality and readiness to train (Duffield and Portus 2007; Pruscino et al. 2013). Thus the aim of this study was to investigate whether compression garments can aid industrial workers during work and recovery.

Ten healthy, physically active males with recent manual labour experience (mean ± SD, 23 ± 3 yrs, 180.8 ± 6.4 cm, 80.8 ± 9.8 kg) volunteered to be involved in this study. Participants performed a 4-h manual labour exercise protocol consisting of 2 x circuits of 10 stations inclusive of 9 minutes of overhead lifting, hammering, dragging and carrying activities, each separated by 3 minutes rest. Two testing sessions were performed, whereby participants wore only industrial work wear (cotton drill long sleeve top and pants) in one session, and a long sleeve compression top (full length) and short leg pants (mid-thigh length) underneath the work wear in the second session. Prior to, immediately after, and 24 h post-exercise, a series of measures were undertaken to assess the influence of wearing compression on fatigue and recovery from the exercise protocol.

Specific measures included physical strength from a maximum hand grip test, and peak knee flexion and extension force. Participants also rated their perceived muscle soreness (scale of 0 -10) and perceived exertion (how hard it felt). Prior to each testing session, participants completed a 4-min cycling exercise of the same moderate intensity as a warm up, with heart rate recorded throughout the cycling and the 4-h work protocol. Further, a 10 mL sample of blood was taken to measure levels of inflammation (C-reactive protein) and muscle damage (serum creatine kinase).

The results demonstrated that compression garments had minimal influence on work performance during the 4-h manual labour protocol or on muscle force production during the 24 h recovery afterwards (hand grip or knee flexion/extension). Further, no differences existed due to the compression garments for heart rate during the manual labour, the level of inflammatory markers or muscle damage in the blood after the 4-h protocol. However, wearing compression garments improved perceived muscle soreness in the 24 h recovery period following the exercise protocol. Although the possibility of a placebo effect exists, compression garments are an effective post-work tool to reduced perceived muscle soreness, fatigue and exertion during subsequent work bouts. With these results in mind, it appears that the use of compression garments for manual labour workers provides some improvement to aid next day perceived work readiness.

Reference List

Chan, V., Duffield, R. and Watsford, M. 2016. The effects of compression garments on performance of prolonged manual-labour exercise and recovery. Applied Physiology Nutrition and Metabolism 41(2):125-132

Duffield, R. and Portus, M. 2007. Comparison of three types of full-body compression garments on throwing and repeat-sprint performance in cricket players. British Journal of Sports Medicine 41(7): 409-414.

Pruscino, C.L., Halson, S., and Hargreaves, M. 2013. Effects of compression garments on recovery following intermittent exercise. European Journal of Applied Physiology 113(6): 1585-1596.

This article is a summary of an article published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism. If you intend to cite any information in this article, please consult the original article and cite that source. This summary was written for the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology and it has been reviewed by the CSEP Knowledge Translation Committee.

Original Article

Val Chan, Rob Duffield, Mark Watsford The effects of compression garments on performance of prolonged manual labour exercise and recovery. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism 41(2): 125-132, 2016