When we get ready to hit the gym there’s certain things we can’t do without; sneakers, shorts, water, music, etc. but a lot of us are forgetting a very important item that is essential for the exercising female, a sports bra! Now females with smaller breast sizes may be thinking that they can get away with going bra-less or wearing an intimacy bra but having a small chest size does not exclude you from the breast damage that comes from exercising without the correct support.
For a long time there has been this underlining thought that only women with larger breast needed to wear sports bras but the truth is every time you workout without the support of a sports bra you are causing irreversible damage to your breast tissue. Consider other areas of your body such as your arms or legs; during a workout these structures are supported by bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons on top of that, for the most part we have control over how these structures move.
Breasts on the other hand are not well supported and we have no control over how they move. Our breasts are made up primarily of fat tissue, mammillary glands, and cooper ligaments. While in the past it was believed that cooper ligaments provided some support for the breast it is now known that anatomically our breast cannot support themselves and cooper ligaments only divide breasts into compartments, hence why it’s vital we provide external support through bras especially when doing any activity that involves increased movement. While not all women will experience breast pain with exercise up to 56% of women do, this can be a hindrance to women exercising regularly. So what causes the pain, discomfort and damage? Uncontrolled Movement. Breasts move in 3 directions up and down, side to side and in and out. An Australian study found that breasts can move up 8 inches when not supported. That being said our breast do not have elastic capability, therefore, repetitive uncontrolled movement cause the breast tissue and fragile cooper ligaments to stretch, this stretching is what leads to soreness and damage and contributes to sagging. A good sports bra offers breast tissue support by acting as a shock absorber and minimizing uncontrolled movement; leading to decreased pain, discomfort, and damage.
How to Choose the Appropriate Workout Bra for You
While having no support can lead to damage and discomfort, wearing the wrong type of bra also has its consequences, including tension in the arms and shoulders, restricted breathing, and skin chaffing. So what should you look for when choosing the perfect sports bra for you?
1. The Bounce Test: Always try on your bra before you purchase it, ideally you should experience less bounce than when you wear your regular bra. Do a 30 second test in the change room, run on the spot and jump up and down to test how well the bra limits your breast movements in all directions.
2. Fit: Your entire breast should fit completely inside your bra, without any spillage in the front or bulging at the sides. Your bra should also fit snuggly under your breasts without being too tight.
3. Consider The Activity: A lot of company’s grade the level of support by impact level of activity the bra is appropriate for, use these guidelines to select the appropriate bra for your activity. Lower impact activities such as yoga and Pilates require a lower level of support than higher impact activities such as running and jumping.
4. Encapsulated vs. Compression: The 2 most common sports bra are encapsulated bras and compression bras. Compression bras work by compressing the breast to the chest as a single unit. Compression bras work well for small to medium breast sizes. Encapsulated bras resemble regular bras and offer more support by encapsulating and compressing each breast individually, these bras work well for women with larger breasts sizes.
5. Wide Straps: Wide straps offer more support, and take stress off the shoulders by distributing weight more evenly.
6. Fabric: When working out moisture can get trapped under and in between the breast. Choose a bra with fabric that removes moisture from the skin quickly to reduce chaffing. Also, look for bras that are made from materials that dry quickly such as nylon other bonus features include mesh ventilation.
7. They Wear Out: Just as sneakers wear out, sports bra also wear out with use. They should be replaced every 6-12 months depending on how often they are used.
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