Compression Garments for Weight Loss and Exercise

compression clothing for weight loss
Cultura RM/Mischa Keijser/ Getty Images

Have you heard about compression garments? The high-tech workout wear is worn by top endurance athletes and sports stars. But some exercisers wear compression garments for weight loss. So do they work? There are some compression gear benefits for people who are new to exercise and who are overweight. But you should know what the specialized clothing can and cannot do before you invest.

What is Compression Clothing?

Compression garments look just like most other workout clothing that you see in the gym or at the sporting goods store.

What makes it unique, however, is that it is woven tightly to support and restrict your body's tissues. While that may not sound comfortable, compression socks, tights and tops give you a feeling of being supported and "held in" but not in a bad way. The garments still allow your body to move freely both during and after exercise.

Some compression clothing is considered "medical grade" and are used in medical settings for use after surgery or to treat circulation issues.  Most compression garments made by sports manufacturers (the kind that you find in the sporting goods store) are not medical grade and allow for more movement - and comfort - during your workout.

Compression Clothing for Weight Loss

Most of the research into compression gear has focused on performance benefits for serious athletes. But there are also unique benefits for exercise newbies or people who are overweight. Fred Hernandez, is the Director of Marketing at 2XU, a company that makes compression gear for men and women.

He explains first that his company considers all exercisers to be "serious" exercisers, and that compression gear can be especially helpful for larger folks and those who are new to exercise.

"Trainees that carry larger amounts of weight could be more susceptible to repetitive use injuries such as shin splints, strains, sprains and joint damage, especially when starting new training regimens. Compression apparel works to compress muscles against a person’s frame to minimize the micro muscle tears caused by muscle vibration and oscillation."

In short, he says that larger bodies move more during exercise and compression gear can limit that movement to prevent some wear and tear on the body. He says there may also be a benefit for people who are trying to lose weight.

"While we would never make the claim that compression apparel aids in weight loss, it can certainly aid in the exercise portion of anyone’s weight loss regimen. Assuming that those types of workouts usually involve higher volume and intensity of cardio work, wearing compression apparel can aid in minimizing the muscle damage caused by the repeated vibration of cardio activities like running or spinning and aid recovery by enhancing circulation during and after exercise."

How to Buy Compression Clothing

If you're ready to buy your first piece of compression gear, Fred has a few tips. First he says that sizing is important to get the maximum benefit. "Compression is meant to be tight – not restrictive, but certainly tight enough that you feel compressed." He also adds that following the recommendations of the manufacturer will yield the best results.

So which compression garments should you buy? That may depend on your body and your goals for wearing the gear. To get exercise benefits during and after your workout, Fred suggests that you start with compression tights because your legs will be involved in most cardio activities for weight loss. In addition, he says, "your legs are your largest muscle group and wearing compression there will return the maximum benefits for someone looking to get the best value and benefit." 

Some exercisers, however, may choose to buy a compression garment for the upper body to limit the amount of" jiggle" that happens during their workout. A compression top will help to support your chest, abdomen and arms to give you a sensation of comfortable tightness. If that support helps you to last longer during your workouts then a compression top may be a good investment. Tops at 2XU come in sleeveless, short sleeve and long sleeve options so it's easy to find a style to give you the comfort you need.

Regardless of which compression garment you buy, remember that it won't be a magic bullet for weight loss. Compression gear doesn't burn more calories and it won't magically boost your metabolism - no workout gear can do that. But if compression gear can make you feel more comfortable when you move, then it might help you to make your workouts longer or to exercise more often. If that is the case, then compression gear is a worthwhile investment.


Born DP, Sperlich B, Holmberg HC. " Bringing light into the dark: effects of compression clothing on performance and recovery." International Journal of Sports Performance January 8, 2013.

Lee Wallace, Katie Slattery and Aaron Coutts. " Compression garments: Do they influence athletic performance and recovery?. " Australian Sports Commission Volume 28 Number 4.

Continue Reading