Sports Bras & Breast Health

By Elisabeth Dale

The Best Sports Bras: Stylish Accessory Or Necessary Athletic Equipment?

I don’t remember wearing a sports bra back in the 1970s when I participated in high school gym class. Not a surprise, given that the modern exercise bra wasn’t popularized until later in that decade. Boys were required to wear “jock straps” to protect their assets. Adolescent girls just wore whatever they had on for the day. Breast bounce wasn’t seen as an important issue.

Studies show that wearing a sports bra reduces excess movement and pain, and may protect the delicate breast tissue of developing adolescents. But less than half of all women choose to strap on this type of breast restraint before working out. Why? One recent survey found that women would rather go without than wear one they view as uncomfortable or too costly. More time and money is spent on investing in high performance footwear.

Today’s female athletes have more choices than I did 30 years ago. But I’ve noticed a new trend in sports bra marketing. Many brands have moved from the aisles of lingerie departments and are integrated into the sportswear sections of department stores. They often mimic the racer back styles of popular yoga and sports clothing brands as well.  But there isn’t a bra fitter in sight to help you figure out your correct band or cup size.

And what of the quality of these products? Some manufacturers have spent years researching the biomechanics of breast movement while others focus on fashion. Even Victoria’s Secret offers a “push-up” sports bra, which seems at odds with the garment’s mission of reigning in breast tissue.

Scientists have also found that specific bra styles (i.e., compression and encapsulating) provide superior strength under most physical conditions. Yet little education or literature is available to those seeking to purchase a sports bra. Unless you visit a specific retailer such as Title IX, you won’t find much information on the pluses or minuses of different brands.

If sports bras are linked to better breast health, why aren’t they sold like other athletic equipment? With knowledgeable salespeople pointing out the benefits of specific features tailored to individual wearers? Here, at least, are some of the Lingerie brands, with technical expertise in bra fit, who are offering viable choices constructed for fit and function.   What’s your view?

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