Fitness Clothing; Good or Gimmick?

From fancy shoes that rock your buns into shape to sports bracelets that improve your balance, we examine the claims of the next wave of high-tech exercise gear

With fitness clothing stores flogging everything from heat-conducting socks to pants that burn more calories by just putting them on, sports stores are starting to feel a little like the Batcave.

But are the claims really worth the money? We investigated several high-tech fitness products to separate the gimmicks from the real deals. Find out which ones you should add to your arsenal.

Compression Gear

Popularised by athletes sporting compression arm warmers, this clothing concept is now available from companies putting out shirts, shorts, and vests for the average weekend warrior. These skin-tight garments apply uniform pressure on your body, redirecting blood flow and reducing muscle oscillation, so you can exercise longer and recover faster.

Out of all the high-tech clothing to hit the market, compression gear has had the most study, but even so, the information is scant if promising. A 2010 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that male athletes who wore a whole-body compression suit showed an increase in oxygen flow to their muscles, and were able to run farther, faster.

Power Balance Bracelet

Big-name athletes like David Beckham swear by its effect, but the research behind the power bracelet is fuzzy. Using Mylar holograms treated with energy waves, the wristband theoretically interacts with your body’s natural energy flow to improve your balance and flexibility.

However, the maker of Power Balance has admitted that there is no scientific proof that the bracelets work. That isn’t to say the charms are entirely worthless. If people think they work, chances are you’ll be more positive going into your workout and produce more every time. Because half of your performance is a mental game anyway, slapping on a bracelet can’t hurt.

Toning Shoes

Every time you strapped on these silly-looking shoes, you could at least warm yourself with the idea that at least you were burning extra calories, right? Maybe not. A recent study from the American Council on Exercise concluded that wearing toning shoes won’t fire up more muscles, burn more calories, or improve muscle tone to any significant degree. Bummer.

These fancy kicks do alter your gait and posture, though, which most likely accounts for the burn you feel after wearing them. What’s more important is how long you’re up and active. And if wearing these shoes makes you too sore to move, it might be time to switch back to your regular trainers.

Argon-Filled Vests

Meet the newest advancement in insulating technology. Instead of stuffing winter jackets with down, KLYMIT’s NobleTek insulation uses argon gas to keep your body warm. Each vest comes with a small tank of the stable gas, and one pump should last you an entire hiking or skiing season.

The vest is thin, lightweight, and incredibly warm—a layer of the gas traps as much warmth as a traditional jacket that’s twice as thick. Plus, you can adjust the amount of argon in your vest as the temperature gets warmer or cooler. This trend seems to be catching on: Look for argon-insulated gloves next season.

X-static Fibers

The same silver fibers that have been woven into bandages and used by medical professionals for years are now making their appearance in outdoor gear. Silver has natural anti-microbial, heat conductive, heat reflective, and odour-fighting properties—making it perfect for extreme outdoor sports when you need to stay warm and keep stench at bay. (It also makes it easier to stick to your winter workout.)

Silver is bonded to textile fibers to create “X-static fibers” that can be woven and knitted into clothing. The skiwear company Spyder is incorporating the silver fibres into select jackets and socks.

Super-wicking Clothing

Synthetic fabrics have kept us cool and dry for some time, but PolarMax has come out with the first superwicking cotton. Unlike traditional cotton, which drinks up water and can weigh you down, the TransDRY line is made from half regular cotton and half super-treated cotton that works much like synthetic fibre. The treated cotton moves sweat off your skin and spreads the moisture over a larger area, so your shirt will dry in half the time.

Merino wool may be a better insulator, but if you prefer the breathability and feel of cotton, this is your best bet to stay dry while you glisten.

Toning Clothes

These tops and bottoms have resistance bands sewn into them, so your body technically has to work harder to perform movements when you’re wearing the garments.

What’s for certain: The pants do help suck in your gut and can make you look more svelte instantly. Toning clothes could certainly make you look better, but it’s not a magic pill. You may burn more calories per minute of exercise, but when it comes to getting in shape, the bottom line is how much work you put into it.

Final Thought – Maybe not every piece of high-tech fitness clothing is worth investing your money in, especially if you’re not firstly investing time in to whatever activity you’re doing.