In this the second article focusing on women in sport (click here if you missed the first one titled Pregnancy and Post Partum Exercise) we are examining the role of the sports bra and how to correctly select and fit your next sports bra.
Research indicates that breast discomfort while exercising, is one of the barriers faced by women wanting to commence or maintain an exercise program. It has also been documented that 88% of female adolescents wear a bra during sport .... that did not fit correctly, leaving room for education and improvement.
So this article will be of interest if you;
Wear a sports bra
Want to know what types of sports bra are available
Want to correctly select type and size of bra for your sporting activity
Understanding Breast Anatomy
Firstly the anatomy of the breast and surrounding tissue does not adequately support activities like running and jogging. Basically the more trunk movement your chosen sport involves, the greater the amount of breast bounce will occur. Research has shown bare breasts can move up and down by as much as 12 cm. Breast volume is also a factor and measured in research using 3D scanners, with 10D = 400ml while a 16D = 1500ml. Generally breasts over 500ml are considered ‘large”. The larger the breast, the more movement and more discomfort. Natural breast support is provided internally by fasica and externally by skin thickness and elasticity. Research has show that from 30+ years of age, the breast skin thins and tissue elasticity declines, resulting in a greater need for additional external support.
Effective Bra Choice: Factors to Consider
In addition to the anatomical considerations of breast volume and age there are some other factors to consider.
1. Minimising Breast Movement: Amount & Frequency
Ultimately, the bra you choose needs to limit breast movement. Breast movements are maximal with activities requiring lots of trunk movement e.g. running cf. walking and force of arm movement e.g. tennis cf. badminton. Check out these short videos that show what is ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ amounts of breast movement https://bra.edu.au/sportsbra/checking.php. The more the trunk movement, or force of arm movement, the greater the support required.
Breast movement also relates to heel strike (unless you are riding a horse and then it would be bum strikes!). Anyway, if you run 10Km (45 - 60 minutes) you will experience nearly 10,000 breast bounces. So if you participate in a high number of hours per week e.g. , running, aerobics, netball etc you will require a bra providing greater support, than if your sport of choice is low impact - for any given breast size.
That being said, too much compression can also be uncomfortable. So the recommendation is to have sufficient support, that you feel nil to mild only discomfort during your chosen sport.
There are three common types of bra. Fashion, Crop top and Encapsulated. It helps to think of a sports bra as an essential piece of sporting equipment, like a mouth guard, selecting for a specific task, rather than an option extra or after thought.
1. Fashion bra
Features, narrow straps, not covering full breast, non-supportive materials (lace/lycra).
2. Crop top sports bra (compresses the breast as a single unit)
Full breast coverage, wide elastic strap and chest band and strong elastic material.