Why Sports Bras are a Must for Women Whilst Exercising + My Favorite

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Written by Penny Cooper

Apart from running shoes or trainers, if there is one thing to invest in, it is definitely a sports bra. I’ve delved into the origins and benefits of sports bras.

This article includes affiliate links. If you choose to purchase any of the products we have discussed in this article, we may receive a small commission.

We have rounded up my favorite most comfortable sports bras in another article and the style of sports bra I’m using is at the end.

Invented in the ’70s, the original runners’ bra, believe it or not, the original concept came about using particularly male items, by sewing two jockstraps together.

It was imaginatively called the  Jockbra but later became known as the Jogbra. They’ve come a long way since 1977.

The Jockbra or jogbra

 The Benefits of Sports Bras. Why invest?

As a Fitness Instructor, I always recommend women wear a sports bra, irrespective of the size of their boobs.

Choosing the right sports bra depends upon your activity level but one is essential. But why wear one?

Well, as you may already be aware, our breasts are fragile and need support. When you go running or workout, your breasts bounce in three directions- up and down, in and out and side to side. No wonder we women can suffer pain after taking part in a sport or after a workout.

All this jigging about and activity puts your breasts under considerable strain especially if you have large boobs. We have reviewed 5 of the very best plus size sports bras.

The varying movements put pressure on the muscles of the chest and the larger your breasts, the more discomfort and downward pressure.

Research done by the Shock Absorber Sports Institute (SASI) at Portsmouth University in England, shows that on average, a woman’s breast moves 9.08 cm or 3.5 inches with every stride when running!

Woman running

On the scientific front (excuse the pun), our breasts do not have any muscle in them. The only support they do have is from the delicate Cooper’s ligaments. Named after physician Astley Cooper in 1840, these ligaments are the fibrous connections between the inner side of the breast skin and the pectoral muscles.

Working in conjunction with fatty tissues, the Coopers’ ligaments are largely responsible for maintaining the shape of your breast and help stop the breast from drooping.

Unfortunately, age and gravity can contribute to saggy boobs, but wearing a correctly fitted bra, including a sports variety, will certainly help to give support in that area.

Benefits of wearing a sports bra whilst exercising

5 young women exercising showing the benefits of sports bras

1. Super Support

This is the main benefit- fabulous support. It is important to get the correct size so get measured and try on for comfort. A good sports bra doesn’t dig into your skin and properly fitted, may help delay breast sagging that may occur as women age. Choose a sports bra that stays in place yet doesn’t cut into your skin.

2. No Bouncing Boobs

Avoid the pain and embarrassment of jiggling boobs. Exercise will be far more enjoyable and you’ll look forward to that exercise class instead of dreading it. Exercising without proper chest support can cause pain and discomfort and stretched skin and ligaments that can lead to droopy, saggy breasts.

Certain activities like running and HIIT can force exaggerated boob movement and a specialized sports bra might be preferred. We’ve reviewed 5 products whilst looking for the best high impact sports bra out there.

3. Supreme Comfort

There’s no underwiring to dig in and plenty of support, so no worry about overlapping anywhere. A good sports bra will help to wick away sweat as well as keep you cool, as many sports bras feature a variety of fabrics that are lightweight but allow for circulation.

A cotton blend bra will feel soft and wick away sweat. More technical fabrics like Coolmax and Lycra provide wicking properties as well as offering stretchy support.

For the most comfortable sports bra we’ve reviewed 5 of our favorites.

What to look for when choosing a sports bra

6 different sports bras

1. Support Level

This depends upon your size ( bigger boobs need more support) and the sport or fitness activity. The higher the intensity of your sport or workout, the more protection you’ll need.

2. Compression or encapsulation

Compression bras basically compress the breast against the chest and usually crop-top styles. Encapsulation bras keep the breasts separate in defined cups, more similar to a standard bra.

If you have larger breasts, choose an encapsulation style. Smaller breasted women may feel a compression sports bra style is more suitable.

There is also a hybrid version that has emerged which, as you might have guessed both compresses and encapsulates.

Each separate cup has a layer of compression material over it to create a secure but comfortable feel. It’s the best of both worlds although it will always depend on the quality of the product as a whole.

Compression tops are a whole different area and we have a guide with reviews of compression tops for men and women.

3. Strap width

Make sure the straps are wider than a standard bra. This will help to support the breasts and prevent the straps from becoming uncomfortable or digging in.

Getting the right fit with your sports bra

4. Material

Ensure the material is breathable and comfortable to wear. Also, check that there are no seam lines on the inside of the cups that would cause chafing.

As a guide, running requires a high impact sports bra, as these bras are designed to support the breasts during those activities that involve a lot of bouncing or jerky movements.

A medium-intensity sports bra is for those fitness activities which don’t involve too much jumping around like strength training or lighter gym workouts.

A low-intensity sports bra would be suitable for those workouts that involve a lot of mat or floor exercises like yoga or pilates.

Your breasts should be fully covered and should not be pouring out of either the top or sides.

When trying on, take a deep breath to make sure the bra fits comfortably. If it rides up at the back, the underband is either too loose or the straps need adjusting.

The bra should fit snugly but not be so tight that you can’t breathe.

How to find the right size sporting bra

A lot of women wear the wrong size bra so here’s a simple guide to finding your correct back and cup size.

Back size:

Measure your bust just underneath your breasts all around the body in inches. If the measurement is even, deduct four inches from this figure. If the measure is uneven, deduct five inches. This is your back size.

Cup size:

Measure your breasts at their fullest and widest point-the nipples- taking the measuring tape all around your back. Now deduct your final back measurement from the cup measurement. If the difference is five inches you are an “A” cup. For every inch in addition to this, add an extra cup size.

Exercises to improve and support your bust

Breasts sag with age, but you may be able to improve the base they sit on through these chest exercises:

The 5 minute breast busting workout

Pec Flyes

Pec Flyes will help to strengthen the muscles that lift the breast tissue.

Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor.

Hold a lightweight dumbbell or filled a water bottle in each hand and extend your arms straight up above you at the breastbone level.

Slowly bring your arms out to the side in an arc, maintaining a slight bend in the elbow.

Stop when you feel a stretch in your chest then return to the starting position.

Do 2-3 sets of 15-20 repetitions three times a week.

Bent Over Row

Bent Over Row

This exercise will strengthen the upper back muscles and lift the breasts.

From a standing position, place your feet a little more than shoulder-width apart.

Bend forward from the hips with your arms extended in front of you while holding a dumbbell in each hand.

Slowly pull the weights up towards your chest.

Keeping your arms close to your sides, lower than weights back to the starting position.

Try 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions three times per week.

Top Tip
Support your lower back by drawing in your stomach muscles throughout the exercise.

Pec Stretch

This stretch will help improve your posture which is key to improving the visual appearance of your bust.

Clasp your hands together behind your back, with your palms together.

Keeping your elbows straight, lift your hands up behind you as far as you can. You should feel a stretch in your shoulders and chest.

Try this exercise everyday day, holding for a count of 6-8 breaths (inhale & exhale).

The Sports Bra I Currently use.

41M+6FJch7L. SL500

I’ve tried many different garments over the years and I am currently loving the Light & Leaf Sports Bra for the lovely feel of the material and the subtle way it supports.

It provides great back support, which I need and looks really good.

Enjoy the comfort and support of a good sports bra in helping you to get fit whatever your age.
Let us know how you get on with the choice you make.

Photo of author
Penny is a Personal Trainer currently training as a wellness coach. She gained a BA in English at Edinburgh University. Redundancy from retail management hastened a move to helping people get fit and writing about all things fitness in middle age.

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