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Breast size, Bra design and comfort during exercise

Posted by Dr Jamie Burt on 26 June 2017
Breast size, Bra design and comfort during exercise

Many women considering breast reduction have reached the point where they have abandoned exercise due the difficulties their breasts cause during and after exercise.

Most women considering breast reduction report as one of their major motivations for considering breast reduction is to get back to more exercise.

Research suggests breast size is the fourth ranked reason given for women not being physically active. (After motivation, time constraints, and other health issues).

17% of women reported their breasts as being the reason preventing physical activity

Could it be that poor bra design is a contributing factor in the symptoms you experience when trying to exercise?

Research suggests 85% of women who choose their own bra without professional fitting are wearing an incorrect sized garment

Researchers are actively looking at the features critical to reducing symptoms in bra design.

The most commonly reported problems with bra design and exercise is strap discomfort.

Researchers have compared symptoms related to strap orientation and width in seeking to advise women about optimal bra design for exercise.

It appears vertical strap design and wide straps (approximately 4.5cm) minimize bra strap pressure and discomfort for women with large breasts. This design showed significantly less symptoms than standard strap width or gel strap designs.

Some women will prefer cross back strap orientation but in general it does appear to increase strap pressure (and therefore often symptoms). Addition of gel pads to a wide strap design may offer additional symptom relief but in the studies reported this was not definitively demonstrated.

In the studies reported all participants were fitted with an encapsulated sports bra design.


1.Sports Med Open. 2015;1(1):21. Epub 2015 May 1.

Bra strap orientations and designs to minimise bra strap discomfort and pressure during sport and exercise in women with large breasts.
Coltman CE1, McGhee DE1, Steele JR1.

2. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013 Jun;45(6):1113-9. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182808a21.

Effects of strap cushions and strap orientation on comfort and sports bra performance.
Bowles KA1, Steele J

3. Sci Med Sport. 2012 May;15(3):195-200. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2011.11.248. Epub 2011 Dec 19.

Features of sports bras that deter their use by Australian women.
Bowles KA1, Steele JR, Munro BJ. JR.

4.J Phys Act Health. 2015 Apr;12(4):588-94. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2013-0236. Epub 2014 Jun 4.

The Influence of the Breast on Physical Activity Participation in Females.
Burnett E1, White J, Scurr J.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013 Jun;45(6):1113-9. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182808a21.

5.Effects of strap cushions and strap orientation on comfort and sports bra performance.

Bowles KA1, Steele JR.

6.Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Jul;42(7):1333-8. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181ca7fd8.

Breast elevation and compression decrease exercise-induced breast discomfort.
McGhee DE1, Steele JR.

Author: Dr Jamie Burt
About: Dr Jamie Burt was born and educated in Melbourne, attending the University of Melbourne and graduating with MBBS in 1998. He is a member of the Senior Medical Staff at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, and was Head of Reconstructive and Plastic Surgery at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute until 2004. Known for his respectful, informative, and caring approach, Jamie has been caring for women with breast reduction concerns for over 15 years. During this time, one moment stands out as defining what he aims to achieve with The Breast Reduction Clinic.
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Tags: Breast Care Breast Confidence Large Breast Symptoms Self Image

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