Breast Support During Exercise
Question: CrossFit Women, are you aware of the importance of good breast support during physical activity?
After a few ladies enquired about our Under Armour Sports Bras, I thought you’d all be interested to know a little more about the importance of wearing a sports bra during exercise.
A recent study of 413 women aged 20 to 35 years from New SouthWales, Australia concluded that although encapsulating sports bras havebeen shown to effectively reduce breast motion and associatedexercise-induced breast discomfort, these bras were not thebreast support option most commonly chosen by young women duringphysical activity. It is recommended that all women, irrespectiveof breast size, be educated on the importance of wearing a well-fittedand supportive bra during physical activity to decrease excessivestrain on breast tissue structures and related breast discomfort.
With growing concerns over increasing obesity in modern society,encouraging participation in physical activity is of paramountimportance. Physical activity not only lowers obesity levelsthrough changes in metabolic rate, but also positively affectscardiovascular fitness and overall wellbeing. It has also beensuggested that physical activity can relieve symptoms of depressionand anxiety, in turn leading to a better quality of life throughenhanced psychological factors such as self-concept, self-esteemand mood. Physical activity also assists in injury prevention,especially in women, as oestrogen and weight-bearing exercisework together to increase bone strength.
Anecdotally, it has been suggested that some females refrainfrom physical activity due to the pain and/or embarrassmentassociated with excessive breast motion. In fact, one reportfound that up to 70% of female athletes complained of exercise-inducedbreast discomfort during exercises involving running and jumping.
Exercise and sports place our breasts under a lot of strain which means that the skin around the breasts can get irreversibly stretched. Excessive breast motion during exercise is a result of the femalebreast containing limited anatomical support. The skin coveringbreast tissue and the thin bands of fibrous tissue that dividethe breast lobules (Cooper’s ligaments) provide thislimited support, leaving breast tissue relatively free to moveover the chest wall if unsupported, especially during movementsof the torso. Even though the medical implications of excessivebreast motion and resultant breast pain are not known, the factthat breast pain may be present during exercise suggests thatsome damage might be occurring to the internal breast structures.
Due to the limited anatomical support within the female breast,external support in the form of a bra is usually recommendedto reduce breast motion and associated breast discomfort. Researchstudies have confirmed that well-designed sports bras, suchas encapsulation bras (in which each breast is supported ina separate cup), are more effective in limiting thismotion and associated breast discomfort than standard fashionbras or crop tops, which attempt to reduce breast motion bycompressing the breasts against the chest wall.
Although fit (93%), stopping breast motion (71%) and the presenceof underwire (45%) were current sports bra features classifiedby the respondents most frequently as “very important”, strapsslipping off the shoulder (34%) and straps cutting into theshoulder (34%) were the main sports bra features respondents“extremely disliked”.
What to take away from this topic:
- As the female breast containsno supportive muscle or bone breast tissue is relatively freeto move over the chest wall, especially during motion of thetorso.
- The skin around the breasts can get irreversibly stretched.
- Research suggests that encapsulating sportsbras can decrease excessive breast motion and related breastpain, during physical activity.
Another UK study concluded that a good sports bra curtails the amount breasts move around by 75%. A sample group of women aged 18-35 were monitored whilst running on a treadmill. The bra size of the women varied from an A-G cup. They were requested to run braless, with a normal bra on and with a specialist sports bra.
The study highlighted that unsupported breasts “bounced” independently of the body by 3.5 inches with each step.
When women wear a normal bra, the “bounce” is curtailed by 38%. Furthermore, when women wear a sports bra the bounce is reduced by 74%.
Basically the message here is that proper breast support prevents sagging!! And we can all do without that.
For more data and statistics relating to this research click here.