© 2007 Intimate Guide
In a recent survey of random women across the internet who were actually willing to take the time to answer a survey, we asked why women need sports bras. Here are some of the insightful answers we got, in their original spelling and grammatical glory:
“To reduce the number of hard-ons in the world.”
It’s a little known fact that the number of “hard-ons” in the world is rising (no pun intended) and this could present a worldwide crisis in coming years. It’s somewhere behind Global Warming, overpopulation and the AIDS epidemic…
Um, yeah. Not a big reason to wear a sports bra.
“So our boobs don smack us in da face when we exercise.”
We did some extensive research and were unable to find a case of facial injury due to a blow from bobbing breasts during any type of physical activity – even mud wrestling. While we will admit that it is conceivable that it could happen, it’s still not really the main reason to wear a sports bra during exercise.
“So it flattens there boobs while playing sports and it helps them like….not get….in the….way.”
Most Sports bras do, indeed, flatten the breasts. And making sure that breasts stay out of the way during any task other than breastfeeding and foreplay is certainly desirable. Still, there are better reasons to wear a sports bra while exercising.
“They are tighter than regular bras so there is no uncomfortable bouncing going on when you move.”
Now, we’re getting somewhere! Bouncing certainly is uncomfortable. In fact, it can be downright painful. More than half of exercising women report experiencing breast pain during exercise, especially during tender times of the month. That’s a great reason to wear a good sports bra during exercise. It’s not the only reason, though.
Thus, we give you our answer to the question:
Failing to wear a supportive and properly fitting sports bra during exercise can lead to permanent breast damage whether you’ve experienced pain or not, and even if your breasts are very small.
Picture a woman running for just a moment. Her feet and legs are pounding the ground. Her arms are moving back and forth. Her breasts are chaotically flopping side to side, up and down like the ears of a basset hound hanging its head out the passenger window of a pickup truck on the freeway.
Unlike her arms and legs, a woman’s breasts don’t have a lot of support. Arms and legs are made up of very supportive components like bones and muscles. Breasts are made of mostly mammary glands and fatty tissue. She can’t really control how her breasts move. They may seem to have a life of their own. In the best of cases, this can be embarrassing. In the worst of cases, it’s painful.
The primary support structures for the breasts are ligaments called Cooper’s Ligaments. They’re named after Sir Astley Cooper, who incidentally did not have breasts or such ligaments of his own. Secondary support for the breasts comes from the skin.
Here’s a fun demonstration:
1) Find an ordinary rubber band
2) Cut it once so that it’s one long strip of rubber instead of a circle
3) Measure the length of the rubber band (record this number)
4) Tie a washer or other similar weight to the end of the rubber band
5) Hold the opposite end of the rubber band and swing it around above your head for the length of your average workout
6) Untie the weight and measure the rubber band again
You don’t have to actually go through this process to know that the rubber band will be longer. The same thing happens to Copper’s ligaments and skin when breasts are not properly supported during exercise. Once the ligaments and skin are stretched, there’s really no way to “unstretch” them short of surgery. This is true even if you’re an AA cup. (Cut the rubber band into a smaller piece and try the demonstration again. You’ll still get a similar result.)
Prevention is key
Clearly, wearing a sports bra is a good idea, but not all sports bras are created equal. A recent scientific study by Joanna Scurr, a professor of Biomechanics at the University of Portsmouth in England, clearly shows that breasts move in three dimensions during physical activity.
- 1) up and down
2) side to side
3) in and out
So, finding a bra that limits motion in all directions will provide the most protection from sagging and pain.
There are two basic ways that sports bras reduce breast movement during exercise: compression and encapsulation.
Compression sports bras are the most common. They attempt to reduce the movement of the breasts by pulling them close to the body (compressing them). Dr. Scurr found that compression bras were fairly effective at reducing up and down movement, but were relatively ineffective at reducing side to side movement.
The online lingerie retailer, herroom.com recently performed a “sports bounce test” in which they video taped the performance of several different sports bras under light jogging conditions. The classic compression sports bras were marked by a lot of breast motion:
The second type of sports bra, Encapsulation bras, surround each breast individually much like an everyday bra. They have individual cups. This helps to limit the side to side motion as well as the up and down motion. A bra that makes use of both compression and encapsulation is the best choice.
When trying on a sports bra, make sure it fits snuggly under your breasts without being uncomfortably tight. Your breasts should fit entirely inside. This is not the time to show off your cleavage. Make sure there are no bulges. The shoulder straps should not dig into your shoulders. Like any bra, the primary support comes from the band, not the straps.
|Your breasts should fit entirely inside your sports bra to minimize bounce.|
When wearing a sports bra, you should experience significantly less bounce that you would experience wearing a regular bra. If you do not see a reduction in bounce, find a new sports bra. You should also never need to wear more than one sports bra at the same time. If you feel the need for two sports bras, then the sports bra you’re wearing is not supportive enough. Find a new one.
Beyond support, there are a few other things to look for in a sports bra. Ideally, it should be made of a fabric that wicks away moisture. This will help prevent chafing problems that may develop during prolonged activity with a wet bra. Some bras take this idea further by offering friction free panels at the neck, armholes and straps. For the really hard core exercisers, some bras even include a small pouch for a heart rate monitor.
Regular exercise increases your health and your self confidence. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, but you have to be careful and exercise smart. You wouldn’t play soccer without shoes to protect your feet, so don’t exercise without a proper sports bra to protect your breasts.