According to the Research Group in Breast Health, a team of specialists working in the Sports & Exercise Science Department in the Faculty of Science at the University of Portsmouth, tests carried out on hundreds of women, from AA to JJ cup, taking part in different activities (from walking to cleaning to tennis), have revealed that not hitting your training targets could be down to more than just your form and state of mind:
“Our findings suggest that inadequate breast support may affect the forces produced by a female runner, which could impact negatively on sports performance. Therefore a well-fitted, supportive sports bra is recommended for women when they exercise to help reduce breast movement and increase breast comfort, which may ultimately improve sporting performance.”
The knowledge that a sports bra could possibly be as vital as our trainers to our PBs certainly made me rethink my gym kit budget allocation; I’ll shell out for snazzy leggings but rely on a greying, overwashed crop top to keep my B cups behaving. They’re only small after all. Apparently, however, size is not an excuse to scrimp on proper support, as the breast biomechanics experts at the University of Portsmouth will attest:
“Our research has shown that a good sports bra reduces the movement of the breast even at walking speed for women of all cup sizes– even AA cup size.”
“Normal bras may be designed to stop breasts bouncing up and down, but our research has shown that breasts also move side to side and in and out. During running our research found that the wearing of a sports bra reduced breast movement by a similar amount for AA cup women and G-cup women (53% and 55%, respectively)."
“If movement is not reduced, women risk stretching the fragile Cooper’s ligaments, which, once damaged, are irreparable. Movement can also result in breast pain for a great number of women, putting many off sport or leading active lives.”
Sedentary vs. saggy is, quite rightly, not a choice we need make in this modern day and age, no matter how well endowed (or not) we may be. Consider the following cutting edge designs and tried and tested favourites, bearing in mind that boob backup only lasts so long; you’ll need to swap up your sports bra should you change size or when it becomes baggy due to wear and washing (nb, skip the fabric softener and tumble drying for the ultimate in sports bra stamina). Let’s get this sports bra show on the road…
The Yoga Bra
Yoga, Pilates and barre workouts all tend to fall into the ‘low impact’ exercise category, depending on how energetic your ashtanga game is, however, the fact that you’re not necessarily bouncing around the room doesn’t mean that your boobs should go without sporty support. A full-on boulder holder will likely feel a bit restrictive, unless you’re very big of bust, but you’ll need something that fits snugly, preventing spillage during downward dog and side planks, with straps that are soft and comfortable enough for you to fully switch off during savasana.
Luxe yoga wear brand Lululemon unsurprisingly have somewhat of a monopoly in this market, and the beauty and craftsmanship of the company’s sports bras, which offer light to medium support up to a DD cup, with crops in sizes 6-16, makes investing in one of the brand’s technically impressive offerings a pretty safe bet. The Free to Be bra , £42, is as liberating to wear as it sounds, especially if you’re used to frumpy styles and suffocating upholstery, and is especially ideal if you’re in the AA or A cup category; it’s light, sweat wicking, designed to stretch and bend with you and has back straps that you’ll want to show off rather than hide. For better support and value for money for B-C cups, the Flow Y Bra IV , £38, possesses equally delicate straps but a more sturdy, chafe resistant bust band (no riding up), and a higher neckline to prevent unwanted exposure. D cups will do better with the ‘hook and eye’ strapped Tata Tamer , £52; it has stronger side panels to minimise sideways movement, greater support out front (with removable breast cups) and wider, adjustable shoulder and back straps to better ‘encapsulate’ boobs (more on that later).
If you’re drawn to ‘go faster’ stripes and prefer wider shoulder and back straps in general, Hawaiian brand No Ka’Oi’s Huki bra , £65, is top notch in low impact situations for A-C cups; fine Italian microfibre keeps you cool and dry and the seamless design is quite simply no ka’oi (‘the best’); the closer you come to forgetting you’re wearing a sports bra at all during flowing yoga movements, the better.
The Gym Bra
Weights classes, spinning and general machine work all roughly fall into the medium impact zone, as does cycling, unless you’re taking it off road, cycling for long distances or live in a particularly pothole prone postcode, in which case you’ll possibly want to opt for maximum support. Otherwise, an efficient but not harness like ‘compression’ bra (normally a shelf or crop top style that ‘compresses’ breasts closer to the rib cage for minimum movement) or ‘encapsulation bra’ (a sports bra with separate cups to limit the ‘figure of eight’ breast movement) will fit the gym floor bill. Pick according to your preference, but those with a larger bust may prefer an encapsulated style for better all round support.
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s latest designs with Marks & Spencer have the power to make light cardio chic and most importantly, comfortable, whether you’re a B cup, E cup or somewhere in between. The vintage inspired grey and muted pink colourways of the High Impact Padded Full Cup Sports Bra , £28, will appeal to the neon-averse, while the soft fabric, pretty yet functional laced back and absence of wiring are a breath of fresh air if you’re more familiar with stiffer sports bras.