We’ve all had that ratty old exercise bra we can’t bring ourselves to throw out. Even if the inner cups have fallen out and it’s now so unsupportive that it’s like wearing a 90s-style bandeau, we refuse to say goodbye. “But it was the first one I bought when I started working out/but it’s cute/but I love the colour!” we protest while literally wincing because our boobs hurt when we run. Yep, we’ve all been there. But turns out, wearing crappy, unsupportive sports bras can actually do far more damage than just being unflattering and being uncomfortable when we work out.
Research shows exercising with the wrong type of size of sports bra can cause long-term damage to your body. Firstly, it can lead to chronic breast pain and irreversible damage to the breast ligaments which can cause drooping and stretch marks. Studies show that unsupported breasts move up and down as much as 12cm during high impact exercise. Due to the movement you’ll be doing in it, wearing an ill-fitting sports bra is actually even more detrimental to the breasts than wearing the wrong everyday lingerie.
“Sports bras because there’s more activity and motion, the breast is held together by fatty tissue and Cooper’s ligaments, with all the stress of movement, it does stretch out, it doesn’t go back,” says Dr. Febin Melepura, a pain specialist at Stanford Pain and Sports Medicine of NYC. “It can cause the breasts to sag and cause injury to the connective tissue of breast and cause pain.”
Not only that, but working out in the wrong exercise bra can actually wear long-term damage to other parts of the body. It lead to long-term neck, back and nerve issues. So, apart from chucking out that ratty old sports bra, how can we stop these issues from arising?
Firstly, it’s important to get properly fitted, just as you would with your everyday bra. Research from Bandier and Nike shows that 80% of women are wearing the wrong bra and that includes their sports bra. In order to get the right size, it’s a good idea to get fitted in-store to determine your correct size (it can vary wildly from brand to brand!) The right sports bra will support you in four key areas—the under-bust, over-bust, underarm and straps. It should feel snug and like you’re supported (but not constricted) and there should be no tissue overflow.
Just like your other workout gear, you should be replacing your sports bras often. “You need to update them every few months like you have to with a running shoe,” says Tina Sharpe, spokeswoman for sports bra specialist Shock Absorber USA. Not like we needed another excuse to buy more workout gear!
The breasts aren’t anatomically designed to withstand movements like bouncing or jumping—they need additional support. So, while you may be able to get away with a lower coverage sports bra for activities like yoga or Pilates, you absolutely need a maximum supportive for workouts like running and HIIT. Keep scrolling for some of our fave exercise bras to withstand any workout.
When it comes to super comfortable, lightweight bras for yoga, you can’t beat Lululemon.
Shop the Lululemon Flow Y Bra
Keep the ladies in check while you pound the pavement with this extreme coverage (yet still flattering) Berlei sports bra.
Shop the Berlei Electrify Underwire Bra
This comfortable, high support sports bra uses moisture-wicking technology to keep you dry during sweaty HIIT sessions.
There’s nothing worse than feeling like your boobs are spilling out when you’re bent over doing deadlifts or rows. This medium coverage bra will keep you strapped in without flattening you out.
Shop the Nike Infinity Sports Bra