When it comes to exercise, we can be full of excuses to avoid a workout. It is cold. I don’t have time. My gym clothes are in the wash. Or my personal favourite, the house needs a huge clean.
But there is one legitimate reason many women use to avoid exercise and it’s right in front of all of us. Our breasts!
Did you know research indicates that up to one in five women avoid physical activity because of their breasts? Wow! That’s like 20% (yes, I am a math genius).
The avoidance figure worsens in girls with up to 50% sitting on the sideline because of their breasts. A 2016 survey of 11 to 17-year old’s showed three quarters had at least one concern about their breasts. Including feeling self-conscious or discomfort during exercise.
Contrary to popular belief it wasn’t just the big breasts among us that were sitting out. It is an issue experienced by women of all cup sizes.
How the right sports bra gets women happier, healthier and moving
Pure and simple our breasts bounce when we move. Sucks I know but it is a fact of life. They have no supportive muscles so jiggle all over the place unless constrained. This jiggle can make us self-conscious when we exercise. So, for many it is easier to avoid.
All that bounce can also cause many of us pain. Both during and after our workout. Our breasts move every which way and if not supported correctly all that repetitive movement takes its toll. I for one have been guilty of this. Avoiding altogether or finishing a workout early due to my girls hurting.
The fact of the matter is we want to encourage girls and women to get active. Our lifestyles are becoming more and more sedentary and removing the barriers to physical activity is important if we are to encourage more women to be active and healthy.
So, we know the problem but what is the solution?
The solution is multi-layered. In this article, I am focusing on the layer I know best. The layer that can have an instant effect on the problem and has the potential to help the greatest number of women and girls. Wearing a comfortable and supportive sports bra.
It really is that simple. If women wear a comfortable sports bra that offers them the support, they need to keep the girls under control as they exercise. They are far more likely to participate in said exercise.
Women who aren’t aware of the benefits of wearing a good sports bra are more likely to experience pain during exercise and are more likely to avoid exercise in the future as a result.
A good sports bra can make all the difference. The chance of breast pain is greatly reduced, and the feeling of self-consciousness can disappear as everything is kept under control.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING A SPORTS BRA
Ok, so we know the right sports bra can help but where do we start? Go sports bra shopping and you will be confronted with a dazzling range of styles. Many of which will not be suitable to you and your situation.
So, how do we sort the wheat from the chafe (I love that saying!)? Work through my list below and get yourself back in the game with the support you need.
SIZE DOES MATTER
Sounds like something a man would say. But in this case, they are spot on. If you want a good fit, you will need the right size. And finding the right size starts with a measure.
Many aspects ensure a good fit but the most fundamental is size. Take the time to accurately measure yourself to ensure the best possible outcome. Measure yourself in front of a mirror and if you can get a little help.
Measure your under-bust first. Pretty simple, pass a tape around your chest measuring horizontally directly under you breasts. Where your bra band would sit. You want snug but not too tight. This measurement is your under-bust.
Next, measure your over-bust. Same as under-bust but around the fullest part of your breasts. Usually over your nipples. Once again snug but not too tight. You now have your over-bust measurement.
From here you can now find your sports bra size. There are many generic online bra size guides. Just make sure you find one that is sports bra specific and suitable to your region. No point checking your size against a French size guide when you live in Australia!
Choosing the right support bra (cont.)
GET THE RIGHT SUPPORT
This is why we are here, to find the right support for our activity. If you are into running you will not be supported in a fashion crop. Unfortunately, this is what many women find themselves in when they go shopping.
Bra support is measured as impact level. Low, medium, and high impact with a few of the most supportive bras measured as extreme impact. Match your activities impact level to your bras and you are on your way.
Low impact sports such as yoga and Pilates do not require much support. Medium impact activities like walking and gym require more. High impact pursuits including running and basketball require a whole lot more support.
If you are not sure err on the side of caution and up the impact support level. Also, if you have a bit more up top consider going higher impact to ensure your girls are kept in check.
MAKE SURE YOU ARE COMFORTABLE
You have found your size. You know your impact level. There is one final piece to the sports bra puzzle and that is comfort. There is no point having the best in support if it is not comfortable.
Fit and comfort go hand in hand. If it fits well it should be comfortable. That said there are a few other things to look out for to ensure you are supported in total comfort.
Try your new bra on and adjust it until it feels good. It should fit snugger than your everyday bra but should not be too tight. You need to be able to breathe!
Do the two-finger test. You should be able to fit two fingers under the band and under the shoulder straps. If you cannot it is too tight and will need adjusting.
Your breasts should be fully contained within the cups. No gapping or spillage. If there are wrinkles in the cup fabric the cup is too big. If you spill out anywhere it is too small.
Do a jump test. Can you feel any rub points? Your bra and breasts should stay in place as you jump around. Bra movement can cause rub. If there is movement go back and check your fit and impact level.
Quite simply your new sports bra should not cause you any discomfort. If it does try something else.
DO NOT SETTLE FOR SECOND BEST
There is a huge range of sports bras out there and your local store may only stock a limited range. Floor space is often at a premium and sports bras can take up a lot of space (we women come in many sizes!)
As such it can be easy to just settle for what your local store has. Don’t settle for second best. This is the single most important piece of exercise equipment you will own, and you need to get it right or you may still find yourself sitting on the sidelines.
Be prepared to put in the time to find what is right for you. Don’t be afraid to venture online. There are many awesome websites out there that offer you a far greater range of styles and sizes. Far more than your local hardware store. Believe it, this is what some women are faced with locally!
So, there you have it. My abridged look at sports bras and how the right sports bra can encourage more women to participate in physical activity.
The sports bra world is a complex one which I have barely scratched the surface of here. Education is the key to sports bra success. The more you know the better your chances of finding the perfect sports bra for you. Check out sportsbrasdirect.com.au. It contains a wealth of information on everything sports bras as well as the very best sports bras available.
Yours in support