For women, wearing a sports bra is imperative when exercising. We look at why you need to wear a sports bra, how to choose the best sports bra, and facts about sports bras.
Why do you need a sports bra?
The average woman in the UK wears a size 34D bra. A 34D equates to around 500g of weight, per breast, so the average woman in the UK is carrying an extra kilogram of weight across her front. Breast tissue contains no muscle and can move independently to the rest of a woman's body. Breasts are supported mainly by skin and fragile ligaments called Coopers' ligaments. These are not elastic, so repetitive or high impact sports that cause the breasts to bounce can pull on the ligaments, forcing them to stretch. Once these ligaments have stretched, they stay this way. The result, every woman's nightmare - sagging breasts.
Along with sagging, training with no support can lead to breast pain, upper back and shoulder problems and poor posture..
Sports Bra Facts
- Your boobs can bounce up to 14cm without a sports bra.
- 44% of women who exercise regularly do not wear a sports bra.
- You should never need to wear more than one sports bra at a time.
- A good sports bra can minimise movement by 53%, even in an A cup.
- Breast pain is a problem for almost one in three (32%) female marathon runners.
- A study of 249 women found that breasts ranked fourth among barriers to physical activity, after lack of motivation, time and poor health.
The history of the sports bra
Sports bras are actually a pretty new idea, invented in 1977 when two women created a jogging bra by sewing two jockstraps together. Lindahl got the idea for the design of the sports bra when she realised that women needed a female version of the jockstrap. She realised it because her husband wore his jockstrap on his chest as a joke.
Before she invented the sports bra, women used to wear one size small normal bras to get the support that they needed during sports. Nowadays, sports bras come in all sorts of designs and styles, so it can be difficult to know what you should be wearing.
What do compression, encapsulation or both do?
All bras with any amount of spandex or lycra offer a degree of compression. The aim of compression in a sports bra is to push your bust against your chest to prevent movement. Compression bras are best suited to a smaller bust. Encapsulated bras support each boob individually and usually provide a moulded shape suitable for most breast sizes and activities. Sports bras which combine encapsulation and compression are the best option for larger breasted women and as they offer an increased level of compression whilst providing support and uplift.
Which level of compression do I need?
Low compression: Low compression bras are best suited to low impact sports, where there is little or no bouncing. Activities include yoga, Pilates and weight training.
Medium compression: These bras are best suited to medium impact sports, meaning there is a moderate degree of bouncing. Activities include the elliptical trainer and power walking.
High compression: These are best for exercising at any intensity over jogging. From running to dance. These bras are designed for activities where there is maximum movement and minimises the risk of damage.
What are sports bras made with?
Different materials offer different benefits in sports bras. Before buying a sports bra, women should determine what they want their bra to do.
|Knitted mesh||Provides increased ventilation and contour-forming fit|
|Nylon - blend fabric||Lifts moisture from skin and dries quickly to minimize discomfort and chafing from sweat|
|Polyester / spandex blend||Provides comfort from fabric softness|
|Cotton / Lycra blend||Provides more fabric thickness|
Sports bra straps
Straps typically come in a racerback or with individually adjustable straps, racer backs disperse the weight of your chest and take it away from the shoulders, typically they are found in high compression bras as they provide the freedom of movement required for high intensity sports. Individual straps which offer adjustable support are best for larger busts, as the straps can be adjusted to achieve further movement control.
Signs you're wearing the wrong sports bra:
- Nip slip - If there’s potential of a nip slip, it’s time to go up a size.
- It’s uncomfortable - Your sports bra should be as comfortable- if not more comfortable than your regular bra.
- It’s old - Sports bra’s have a life expectancy and even the best ones need replacing often, as soon as your bra looses it’s elasticity, you're risking your boobs doing the same. To extend the life of your sports bras, treat them - try giving them a hand wash and sun dry.
- The band rides up you back - The band is the building blocks of your support, so if its moving it probably doesn't fit properly. The band should sit tight, not move up or down, but not restrict you breathing. It’s never a good idea to exercise in a bra that makes you feel like you're holding your breath.
- The straps dig in - Kiss goodbye to this sports bra, if the straps are digging, its not supporting your chest, so it’s about as useful as a chocolate fireguard.
- You have to double up - Doubling up on your bra can be uncomfortable and is completely unnecessary if you get a decent fitting bra in the first place. Try getting fitted professionally.
- Your boobs whack your chin when you bounce - Before buying any sports bra, do a few high jumps. Run around a little in the fitting room. If your boobs have the potential to knock you out, next.
- It's made of cotton - Technical fabrics are designed to support the breast and wick away moisture, while cotton just stretches out and soaks up sweat.