Sports bras have undergone a lot of refinement and evolution in the past 10 years, but only in the past decade has scientific study attempted to understand breast movement and improve sports bras. We’re happy to report that a new study being conducted in the U.K. may help improve sport bra development, and help create an ideal sports bra that provides the support that women need. The Breast Health Unit at the University of Portsmouth has been conducting a study to research breast movement as it relates to pain, and measure the important criteria to help reduce breast pain during exercise.
The study monitored 15 female volunteers with a D-size bra cup as they ran on treadmills. The study was designed to measure breast movement, and used infrared cameras to monitor sensors attached to the women’s chests in order to track movement in 3D. During the study, the women ran without a bra; with a typical everyday bra; and with a sports bra. The women were then asked to rate their discomfort on a scale of 1 to 5. Both the 3D models and women’s ratings provided important information to researchers.
The Director of the Breast Health Unit, Joanna Scurr, reports that “Up to 72 percent of women experience pain or discomfort either during or after exercise.” Scurr added that this includes both elite athletes and once-a-week-joggers, and pointed out that this pain and discomfort has a negative effect on performance, and can even deter women from participating in physical activity. But that’s something we already knew, right, ladies?
The 3D modeling revealed that the speed of the breast movement was actually the most painful factor in running, with speed of breast movement accounting for 56 percent of pain during running. Scientists expected that the distance that the breasts moved would be responsible for causing most of the discomfort, but this factor only accounted for 43 percent of pain. Acceleration accounted for 37 percent of pain during running.
Additionally, this study reveals that the side-to-side motion of the breasts is responsible for most of the performance issues and a fair amount of the discomfort caused by running. This suggests that horizontal support is also an important factor in sports bras; a shift from the focus in vertical support that has dominated the sports bra industry in the past 10 years.
Pain Not Linked to Breast Size
Many women falsely assume that the amount of pain or discomfort that they experience during exercise is linked to their breast size, and that if they have smaller breasts, they don’t need a sports bra. A second study of 100 women revealed that this misconception isn’t true. Breast pain in women who exercised once a week was just as likely as women with an A-cup compared with women with an F-cup. This reveals important information for how women shop for sports bras, and the need for smaller-busted women to also look out for breast health when exercising.