If you’re working out at home or heading out for a run somewhere private, it may be tempting to skip the struggle of putting on a sports bra. But the compressive garment isn’t just designed to make your chest look a certain way, it was invented in order to protect your breast health during exercise that causes your breasts to bounce. It may sound funny, but skipping a sports bra too often can have negative consequences for breast health.
That’s because your breasts are connected to your chest by thin tissue called the Cooper’s Ligaments, and a repetitive up-and-down motion, whether it’s from running, skipping rope, or doing a dynamic movement like jumping jacks, can eventually cause pain and sagging in that tissue (via Livestrong). Unfortunately, breast size is linked directly to discomfort levels: Women with larger breasts are more likely to experience breast pain when exercising.
What should you look for in a sports bra?
The level of compression — how tight the bra is in order to keep your breasts from bouncing — depends on the activity you’re doing. Running will require a more high-impact bra, while slow, gentle movement like yoga means a lower-impact bra can be used. When trying on a sports bra, don’t just stand in the fitting room: Give it a jump test to see how well it controls bounce. And good news: A more supportive bra can actually improve your running posture (via Human Movement Science).
If you do have larger breasts, Shape recommends an encapsulation-style sports bra that has separate cups for more control and a more comfortable fit. But even those with smaller breasts should be seeking support: Regardless of breast size, the connective tissue can still be damaged by high-impact exercise. You may be able to wear a lower impact, less compressive bra, but some level of support is critical. Because a good sports bra can be the difference between a pain-free workout and a frustrating one, it’s important to pick bras that feel comfortable as well as supportive. Don’t be afraid to splurge on a sports bra that fits well.