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Why wear a sports bra? Spotlight on asset protection.

Complete guide to the benefits of wearing a sports bra.

Why wear a sports bra for working out? You would think it was obvious wouldn’t you? But you would be surprised just how many women do not wear a sports bra to exercise. I speak from first hand experience- women I regularly see in my Les Mills classes and out running. To me, going out to do sport without a decent sports bra on would be as much of showstopper as forgetting to put my leggings on. It would feel like every stride was bringing my boobs an inch closer to the floor.

You wouldn’t go for a run in your jeans and wedges, they are just not fit for purpose- so why do we not apply this logic to bras? Let us help answer the question- why wear a sports bra?

1. Gravity hack- beating the bounce

Breasts are essentially just supported by skin and given internal structure by connective tissue called Cooper’s ligaments. Neither of these is very strong, especially as we age and the skin elasticity reduces. Your breasts actually move in a figure of eight as we exercise, irrespective of whether we are running, jumping, skipping or cycling. Everyday bras are simply not designed to contain this movement pattern.

Sports bras are not just for big busted women. Research at the University of Portsmouth has show that when unsupported, a G cup can bounce up to 14cm, and an A cup by 4cm! There are no muscles supporting breast tissue, so with repeated uncontrolled bounce, the Cooper’s ligaments and skin that anchor your breasts will stretch and your breasts will start to sag before their time. Like a pair of Spaniel’s ears.

A sports bra is a technical piece of sports equipment that protects your breasts from excessive bounce and reduces movement by up to 83%. This excessive movement can not only cause premature sag, but it also gives profound breast discomfort- reported by 72% of women. And let’s be honest, nothing will stop you quicker in your chosen sport than painful flappy boobs getting in the way of your workout. Running is hard enough as it is.

2. Poor performance

Speaking of running, the University of Portsmouth has also found that excessive breast movement causes women to shorten their running stride length by around 4cm. Over the course of a marathon that equates to adding another mile onto the distance.

“Excessive breast movement causes women to shorten their running stride length by around 4cm”

Brogan Horler, University of Portsmouth

“When women run without adequate support, research also reveals more muscle activity in the upper body as women may tense to try and limit how much their breasts move,” explains Brogan Horler, a researcher at the University of Portsmouth who studies breast motion and health. Wearing a proper sports bra can reduce pectoral muscle activity by 55%. This is particularly pertinent to horse riders- tensing and arm clamping to reduce unsupported breast movement will affect your contact with the horse’s mouth through the reins.

A lack of breast support has also been found to affect a runner’s gait: “We’ve also seen increases in ground reaction forces, which may be linked to a runner attempting to cushion their strides to limit breast movement, and increases in levels of perceived exertion.” Essentially you put your energy into limiting breast bounce rather than the running itself.

3. Strap in

Bra experts Rigby and Peller suggest that 80% of a bra’s support comes from the band under the breasts. An everyday bra often just has 2 hooks at the back and a narrow flimsy band; a sports bra often has 3 or 4 sets of hooks securing the band in place and keeping those knockers under control. It may also have a second higher set of hooks to add compression around the top portion of the breasts, so adding further control- the Runderwear Power running bra is a great example of this.

The shoulder straps on a sports bra are much wider, and often padded, so distributing the load and pressure exerted from the movement of your workout. They will also be anti slip- so you won’t get that annoying strap sliding down your arm mid squat.

4. Cheat the chafe

If this wasn’t enough, wearing a sports bra means you are much less likely to get chafing or sore spots. Sports bras are designed to stay in place and wick the sweat away from skin- this is the combination that helps stop the chafe. This moisture wicking ability also helps stop sports bras getting smelly.

If you have never experienced chafing, lucky you, it is one of the most disproportionately painful things- speak to any cyclist. One of my friends recently showed me the boob blisters she had; these were from a badly fitting sports bra she had been running in. My eyes watered just at the sight. She is now in a Runderwear Energize running bra and all three of them are much happier. Runderwear have the added bonus of being label free, another potential cause of irritation.

When you wear a sports bra, you are protecting your nipples. Now, nipple chafe is not something I have ever experienced. But my husband has. And those raw, weepy, bleeding nipples (too much?) from runner’s t-shirt rub is something I will never forget. Because sports bras are made of smooth slick fabrics, and your breasts are held secure within them, they protect your delicates from this fate. A regular bra may have inner seams over the nipples, and there will still be movement of breast against fabric within the bra- potential causes of chafe.

5. Style it up

Still not convinced why you should wear a sports bra? Stylistas keep reading…

Sports bras are more and more being worn as inner-outerwear. What on earth does she mean? Gym tops seem to be getting smaller (like my jeans), the arm holes wider, the backs lower. Never before has more of your underwear been so on display in the gym. Sports bras give you more breast coverage, and come in fabulous colours and designs (check out the Anita Extreme in python, and the Elomi Energise in blue lightning, swit swooooo!) They are now something to show off, (or at least not feel embarrassed of, if anyone gets an unintended peek), as you flex in the gym.

Over my years of sport, one of my biggest motivators when I am having an off day, is putting on my favourite kit, the kit that makes me feel great, and my sports bra collection is included in that.

6. Confidence is key

All in all, wearing a sports bra maximises your confidence whilst exercising. 85% of women who wear a sports bra to exercise agree that it helps them to enjoy their chosen sport more. This is a combination of breast comfort, improved freedom of movement and increased confidence. Anything that makes women feel even more awesome when exercising is something we should be championing.

Keeping your breasts secure means you don’t have to be conscious of the bounce during those jumping jacks or worrying you are going to have a mid-burpee wardrobe malfunction in that snazzy new strappy top. It leaves you free to focus on rocking your workout and on being the wonderwoman you are.

Hopefully that has given you some answers as to why wear a sports bra for exercise. All you need to do now is find one that works for you…

What type of sports bra will give me optimum fit and support?

What works for you depends on several factors: breast size, shape and chosen sport (or impact level). There are 3 main types of sports bra: compression, encapsulation and hybrid.

Compression sports bras squish your breasts down onto your chest and are generally best for smaller boobs as they do not deliver as much control as the other types of sports bra. Boody Racerback sports bra is an example of a compression bra.

Encapsulating sports bras hold each breast in its own cup, these can be underwired or moulded but do not have to be either. A great example would be the Freya Active Sonic.

Hybrid sports bras are a combination of encapsulation and compression, they are often double layered and use both technologies to limit breast movement. Pure Lime Athletic and Anita Delta both fall into this category.

Aside from saying that compression bras are best for smaller cup sizes there is no hard and fast rule to say which type of bra is best for you and your breasts. A lot is down to personal preference. We have included some guidance about styles that might work for your breast shape on the site.

Wide or side set shaped breasts
power rating 4 logo

The other tool we hope you will find helpful is the Power Rating guide. This essentially couples your breast size with the impact level of your chosen sport to give a ‘power rating’ of 1-5. We have then rated all our bras according to this, thus standardising the support measurement of the bras across all the different brands.

A great fitting sports bra that gives your breasts the support they need is an essential part of your kit bag. It will ensure you get the most out of your workout, both in terms of enjoyment and performance, no matter what bust size you are.

Dive into our shop now to find your best fit.