Is exercise damaging your breasts?

Sportswear experts say a bra has a shelf life of only one year. Photo / Getty
Sportswear experts say a bra has a shelf life of only one year. Photo / Getty

You may have scoped out some serious-looking running shoes, a cosy yet stylish hoodie or the latest leggings, but when it comes to exercise gear, a good sports bra should be top of the list.

And it pays to get the right fit - experts claim wearing the wrong size sports bra can not only lead to neck, back and breast pain, it can also cause irreparable damage to the ligaments inside the breast, leading to drooping and stretch marks.

An international study by lingerie brand Triumph found that nearly two-thirds of women wear the wrong size bra, and experts believe that the same goes for sports bras.

"If you wear the wrong regular bra, you're probably going to be wearing the wrong sports bra, Febin Melepura, a pain specialist at Stanford Pain and Sports Medicine in New York told the Daily Mail.

"The breast is held together by fatty tissue and Cooper's ligaments, and with the stress of movement, it does stretch out, and it doesn't go back," he said.

"It can cause the breasts to sag and cause injury to the connective tissue of breast and cause pain."

According to the experts at Reebok, you shouldn't hold on to a bra for longer than a year.

"The materials do have a certain lifespan," Reebok product marketing president Barbara Ebersberger told the Daily Mail. "You should exchange your bra every single year.'

Lingerie experts say all breasts need the same level of support during exercise, regardless of size. Photo / Getty
Lingerie experts say all breasts need the same level of support during exercise, regardless of size. Photo / Getty

Ebersberger said people often put off spending money on sports bras, in favour of splashing out on more visible items such as t-shirts and leggings.

However, Lisa Ndukwe, senior designer at sportswear brand Sweaty Betty, said a good sports bra is essential for avoiding damage to the breast tissue.

"Women believe saggy breasts are due to the size of your breasts, however it is actually due to the stretching of the ligaments that hold your breast tissue in place irrespective of your size," she told the Daily Mail. "Hence why even if you are a neat double A it is as important to wear a correctly supportive bra as if you are a double D."

"Your bra should fit tightly at the underband, this is where the majority of the support comes from," she said. "This should feel tighter than an everyday bra."

"The fabric covering your bust should be tight with no loose fabric," Ndukwe told the Daily Mail. "The straps are there to hold the bra in place, they shouldn't be digging in at the shoulder."

What to look for when choosing a sports bra

• Breasts shouldn't move when exercising.
• You need a tight underband - this should feel more snug than your everyday bra.
• Look for good coverage at the side and top of the breast, and fabric should be tight over the bust.
• Straps should not dig in.
• Your breasts should be closer to your chin than your belly button.

-nzherald.co.nz

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