You may not be aware that Portsmouth University has a research group in breast health, but that’s something I’ve found out this week. In fact, they claim to be responsible for more than half the scientific studies carried out that focus on the biomechanics of breasts, which is either impressive or a little sad. Their fields include studies on proper breast support, how breasts move during exercise and the sources of breast pain, all of which have real world implications for many women.
Seeing breasts dealt with in such a practical way is very refreshing, though I caught myself almost giggling more than once, which is somewhat embarrassing seeing as I have a pair of my own. Breasts are still considered to be primarily sexual in nature and this has lead to some roadblocks for women who want to participate in sports. The first sports bra faced challenges from sports shops, who were worried that selling lingerie could be deemed inappropriate. Conveniently forgetting that they were already selling cups for men.
In fact, the work from Portsmouth University has helped create better and better sports bras for a range of body shapes. Meaning that there is the perfect sports bra for you out there.
Finding a Sports Bra That Fits
Most sports bras work within two different ways of keeping your breasts still during exercise
Compression: The breasts are squashed and flattened as close to the body as possible, thus reducing their movement.
Encapsulation: The breasts are surrounded by individual cups that offer padding and individual support.
Though this isn’t absolute, compression tends to work best for smaller cup sizes and encapsulation is often a better fit for D+ plus sizes. This is only a rough indication though, as breasts all work in different ways and might respond differently to the sports bra you choose. It’s a good idea to try on different styles and even go for a fitting where possible. There are also additional details that can have a large effect on your comfort.
Racerback or Wide Straps: Some bras have the straps join into one at the back for additional support that pulls the breasts in towards the centre of the body. Wide straps offer equal support to both breasts, which again can be of use particularly to larger cup sizes.
Over the head or Clip?: Some sports bras come as one piece, which you need to fit over your head like a crop top. This works well for some body shapes but for others it can be unhelpful. In these cases a traditional clip fastening can offer a more tailored fit.
Studies like those carried out by Portsmouth Uni have helped heave forward our understanding of how breasts move, which has also influenced those that design bras. If you haven’t looked into sports bras that are available for a while then you might be surprised by what you find. The biggest gains have been for women with larger breasts, who were practically ignored during the early days of sports bras but are now helping to develop even more supportive styles!
In fact, Freya Active recently worked with Portsmouth Uni to assess their range of active wear designed especially for sizes that ranged up to a H cup. Through a series of tests they were able to objectively measure how their Freya Active sports bras fared during running and other exercises, compared with no bras (owch!), everyday bras and other sports brands. The findings allowed them to increase the efficiency of their encapsulation bras for larger breasts. This includes touches like their wide straps, which can be adjusted and joined if that’s a preference of the user. As mentioned previously, sports bras for larger cups were lagging behind in terms of implementation and style but today encapsulated sports bras are impressive in their ability to support. Check out what’s available to you and you might want to thank Portsmouth University for all their hard work!
Quick Signs You’ve Found Your Bra
- You can fit one finger under the support band.
- No noticeable “over flow”, breasts are kept inside the cups! Likewise, cups don’t wrinkle due to excess space.
- Straps don’t dig or fall off the shoulder.
- Wide support bands can be a problem for some shapes. Reach your arms up in your bra, if the band rides up then it’s too big.
The Breast Health Research Group is an important step in normalising women’s bodies during sports and I wholeheartedly applaud their work. I’m also incredibly pleased that their research is being used in a practical way to influence the creation of more effective sports bras. So whatever shape you have, have a look and see if there are any sports bras that work for you. It’s amazing how different a workout can feel without your breast movement distracting you or causing you pain.