by Lisa Oram
As much as it can be a blessing to be generously endowed, an energetic workout can be painful. Read up on the science behind the bounce, and discover how to buy the best bra for the job.
Finding larger bras for vigorous activity is a tough proposition. And yet, the right bra can make the difference between a walker and a jogger, or a woman who sticks with her exercise regimen and one who gives up.
"Breast size and pain caused by exercise can be a real barrier to women doing exercise," believes Joanna Scurr MD, a sports scientist at the University of Portsmouth in the UK who pioneered the study of breast movement.
How to Buy a Sports Bra
Oram, Lisa "No Bounce Sports Bras for Bigger Busts"
Wightwatchers.com. 4 January 2010. Web. 6 January 2010.
A sportswear manufacturer of athletic clothing for women only, says that finding the right sports bra "revolutionized her ability to run" (she's a 34 DD). She offers the following advice about how to shop for a bra:
- Get fitted by a professional to determine your correct size.
- Size will change with age. Use size as a guide, but then try on every bra in your size in the store.
- Test the bra by moving around the fitting room or jog a few laps around the store.
- Look in the mirror while you move. You will probably see some movement, but if there's more than an inch of bounce, it's not your bra.
She reminds us that breasts don't settle into a bra by themselves, so you have to reach your hand into the cup and scoop the breast tissue from the bottom to place it in the proper position – every time you put the bra on.
But as more and more women are seeking an active and healthy lifestyle, bra support is getting better, including some styles that are designed specifically for the well-endowed woman. If you've ben wearing two bras at the same time for high impact activity, take a look at what we found out below.
Sports bra basics
Scurr's research shows that breasts actually move in their directions, not just the up-and-down bounce that is most visible. While a woman is walking on a treadmill, there is also breast movement from side to side and in and out. Additionally, the speed of breast movement during exercise can be a significant contributor to pain, which means the transition from walking to jogging is a significant movement, chest-wise.
Besides pain, there is the unfortunate issue of droop and sag. Excessive breast movement damages the naturally fragile support of breast tissue and can result in permanent damage to the figure. Young women especially have a chance at preventative maintenance if they get into a good sports bra early.
Bra design tackles the wiggle and jiggle in two ways. Compression bras press breasts against the chest to limit their movement. Encapsulation bras support each breast individually. Some bras are a combination of both styles.
According to Scurr's research, each breast moves independently, which points to greater effectiveness from encapsulation bras. Compression bras, she maintains, limit bounce, but not the movement in other directions.
All sports bras are made from wicking fabrics that absorb sweat to keep you dry and cool. They need to stay put – no one wants to tug her bra in the middle of a tennis serve. And they need smooth construction that does not irritate the skin by rubbing and chafing. Fortunately, many sportswear manufacturers have grown wise to the fact that women with larger chests like to work out hard, so shopping for them is a lot easier.
Women with very large busts, however, still find it hard to find a bra that allows more than light movement. Don't give up; there are products out there, you just have to know where to look. In 1993, Enell founder Renelle Braaten, an avid volleyball player, cobbled together a bra with her seamstress mother that gave Renelle the support and comfort she hadn't been able to find. Retailer Title Nine calls this bra the "Last Resort," which says it all. Its 10 sizes fit women from a 32-52 band size and DDD cup. The design combines encapsulation and compression with front closure and a full coverage back. It's not pretty, but it works.
Our Bra Favorites
WeightWatchers.com staff and friends (of many shapes and sizes) put several models to the test. Here are their favorites. (Prices and availability may vary.)
The only sports bra that has ever worked for me is the Enell Sport – and by work, I mean once it's on , my breasts simply do not move. Before the Enell, I couldn't run or do aerobics without pain; now, I can do both. With its vest-like design and nearly 20 tiny hooks up the front, it's the strangest looking undergarment I've ever seen, but I couldn't care less. This bra is a secret weapon, and I feel like a superhero when I'm running in it! One style, 10 sizes, six colors.
Lisa Oram, Freelance Writer
$60 to $66; Available at Enell.com