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Choosing the Right Sports Bra: Are You Supported?

Posted Dec 12 2008 2:51pm

As a fitness instructor, women often come to me with questions about health and exercise, as well as body image and self-confidence. All of these issues are interrelated. I have found that one of the most personal issues that my students want to know about, but don’t like to ask, is how to keep their breasts firm even when committed to a tough regimen of daily exercise.

This is an issue I know a lot about since I personally workout by myself or with my Mambo Maniaclasses an average of 5 hours a day. Breast tissue that is inadequately protected during such rigorous activities will allow the breast to “bounce.” Even with slight movement, breast tissue stretches, leading to unwanted sagging and stretch marks. High-impact aerobics, horseback riding and other “bouncy” activities leave the breasts most susceptible to damage. The solution is to keep the breasts well-protected and supported during exercise using a sports bra, as well as to maintain a nutritious and well-balanced diet.

Many women ask me why this happens. After all, isn’t the female body designed to run around? While it is, with age we find that the breasts inevitably begin to sag. There are multiple reasons for this—including genetics, breast feeding, drastic weight change, posture, health problems, and of course, gravity and age. Ptosis, which is the medical term for sagging, is more specifically caused by the deterioration of the glandular tissues collagen and elastin that maintain firmness, as well as the gradual stretching of connective tissue between the breast and the muscles. Note that sagging is not necessarily related to how large the breasts are. Breasts are composed of both heavy and light tissues, and it is the balance of the two that creates the ultimate shape.

Exercising without proper support will accelerate the whole sagging process as well, and this is why I always recommend the use of a proper sports bra. How do you know if your current bra fits the bill? Consider these questions:

1. Do your breasts feel completely secure during your entire workout?
2. Is each breast supported in a separate cup?
3. Does the bra dry easily even through a rigorous and sweaty exercise routine?

If you were unable to answer “yes” to all of these questions, it’s time to invest in a new bra (or two!). In fact, it’s always a good idea to carry an extra bra in your exercise bag to change into after your workout.

Going shopping for a new sports bra should be a fun activity. But as important as style and personal taste is, make sure that ultimately you choose a bra that has these necessary qualities:

  • Always try on a sports bra the first time you buy. Stretch, reach, jump around and run in place to simulate a workout environment. Above all, the sports bra should provide a comfortable fit, even when you take a deep breath.

  • Preferably, choose a bra that supports your breasts completely from underneath, not with shoulder straps. (Also take care that straps don’t cut into your shoulders; otherwise you will be very uncomfortable by the end of your workout!)

  • Each breast should be housed in a separate, molded cup. This is to prevent the breasts from bumping into each other during exercise, causing tissue damage or even bruises. (If you're smaller-breasted this is less of an issue.)

  • Sweat produced during a vigorous workout can lead to chafing. For this reason, be certain to purchase a sports bra that will dry easily and not become saturated with moisture.

  • Buy T-Back bras so that the straps don’t show through. It’s also a good idea to try on the bra with your workout outfit just to be sure the colors don’t show!

Once you’ve got a comfortable number of sports bras in your closet, it’s time to get out and use them! You should also throw out your old bras promptly as the elastic breaks down and the bra loses its ability to support. Remember, the investment in proper equipment is an investment in your health.

One last point: I would be remiss if I didn’t stress the importance of a balanced diet. Like all cells in our body, glandular tissue in the breast requires proper nourishment to continue to produce healthy cells. Though many women overlook this fact, eating well is one of the most significant things we can do to maintain a youthful appearance, including maintaining the firmness of our bodies. Check out my Metabolic Cure for a nutritional plan to get healthy.

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