The importance of choosing the right sports bra is beyond the trendy fashion statement it may make as you sweat. Sports bras are designed to provide extra support to keep your mind focused on your workouts while preventing damage to your breast tissue as you are jumping, jogging, punching and kicking.
"Prevention of breast pain and breast sag are the main health reasons for wearing a sports bra during exercise," explains Merrill, a 20-year veteran of the fitness industry. "It has been reported that 56 to 72 percent of physically active women experience exercise-related breast pain during and after workouts. The repeated stress of breast movement during exercise can damage the ligaments and other supporting structures of the breast, thus causing increased sag."
You may love the fit and feel of your regular bras, but they won't give you the support your breasts need during a vigorous workout. "Sports bras are designed to minimize breast movement and provide extra support, whereas regular bras are typically designed for basic support and style," says Merrill. "Also, many sports bras come in soft, moisture-wicking fabrics, which offer additional comfort."
Sports bras come in two different designs: compression and encapsulation. The size of your breasts will determine which sports bra design is right for you. "Smaller-cup-sized women should look for compression sports bras, which flatten the breasts to the chest wall," advises Merrill. "Women with larger cups sizes should choose encapsulation sports bras, which contain molded cups that encapsulate each breast separately and allow independent movement of each breast."
As tempting as it is to grab and go, take your sports bra to the dressing room and try it on. More important, give it a quick test run. "Jump up and down a few times in the dressing and make note of the movement of the breasts and any chaffing from the bra," stresses Merrill. "A small amount of breast movement is normal, but a woman should feel supported while jumping." Don't buy a sports bra that doesn't feel right -- give a few others a try to find the best one.
Consider talking to an expert if you are buying your sports bra in a fitness store -- she can help you decide which style, material and price range fits your exercise and budget needs.
Once you find the perfect sports bra, buy a few extra and keep one in your sports bag or gym locker at all times. Look at wearing a sports bra as part of your health and fitness routine. Not only will you be able to work out harder and more mindfully, you'll also be protecting your breast tissue from damage and sag.
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