Why do we need a sports bra if the regular bra serves the same purpose?
As women, we already invest a lot of money on clothes, shoes, makeup, and purses in order to look good, feel good and keep up with the latest trends. This includes purchasing undergarments such as bras, which have hundreds of styles and colours to choose from. We have a selection of outfits to wear for work, which are different from the outfits we wear for an outing. We even have a different set of clothes to wear to the gym! And why shouldn’t we?! We want to be comfortable and wear suitable clothing so we can participate in physical activities, where we put our bodies to test to become stronger, more flexible and healthier. And if you’re a sweat ball like me, you would definitely need different clothes to work out in!
But what about sports bras? When I started working out, I was not too fond of wearing a sports bra. It was partly because I’ve never really liked the way they were designed, so when I did wear one, I wore it over my regular bra. This was because I did not even know that there were different styles available. The question then is: do we really need to spend money on sports bras to workout in when we already own regular bras.
Let’s explore the functionality of bras to answer that question. Bras aren’t simply there for coverage, they actually play an important role in physical and mental health – crazy right? I know! The major two main functions are: 1) Support and 2) Comfort.
With age, breasts will begin to lose its elasticity and start to sag. Repetitive and high-impact activities will also stretch the skin and ligaments and cause premature breast sagging. This is due to the breakdown of Cooper’s ligaments, which are a fibrous connective tissue that are responsible for maintaining the shape and
configuration of the breast (1). Although you cannot control this factor, you can delay premature sagging by wearing a bra that FITS RIGHT (this is highly important). Well-fitting bras can limit the movement of the breasts. With this function, they are able to prevent the Cooper’s ligaments from breaking down early, in turn preventing them from sagging. They can also prevent chronic back pain, poor posture, neck and shoulder pain by carrying 80% of the weight of the breasts through its band.
Beware Not ALL bras are made equal. Firstly, you need to find a bra that fits right, meaning the bra band should be snug but not too tight and the cup size should be able to cover the breasts so they can be fully supported and sit comfortably. Secondly, you need to find encapsulated bras which can help support and hold each breast in a sturdy cup instead of compression bras which push the breasts against the chest wall. The latter is particularly relevant for a sports bra. Many of us opt for a compression bra which do minimize the bounce and enhance support, but it does not limit total breast movement. Breasts do not just move up and down, they move side to side, and almost in a figure-8 pattern (2). The key is to wear encapsulated sports bras which will prevent this crossover movement.
The other function of bras in general is to provide comfort by hiding the nipples, regulating temperature, and controlling sweat. Herein lies the mental health aspect of wearing a bra. While some women may be fully comfortable showing off their assets, others may not be – particularly their nipples protruding out of their blouses or dresses. Although a regular bra is perfect for hiding the nipples, they are not designed to regulate temperature or control sweating. This is because of the material used to make pretty and fancy bras. The sweat will just end up pooling along the material and leaking down the back. Additionally, the straps may fall off or hooks can come loose which will cause further discomfort.
Sports bras, on the other hand, are perfect to overcome these shortcomings. They are generally made out of fabrics that are perfect for regulating your body temperature, thus won’t make you as hot and sweaty. You do not have to worry about the straps falling off or digging into your shoulders because the straps are wider and attached to the rest of the bra in a way that it’s nearly impossible for them to fall off. Most sports bra do not have hooks in the back so you also don’t need to worry about them holding onto each other for dear life.
So we’re back to the question of: Do we need to wear sports bras while working out?
Technically yes. Given the functionality of wearing a sports bra when participating in high-impact exercises, it could very well be advantageous in investing in a high-quality encapsulated sports bra that fits right! One wardrobe malfunction is one too many, especially when all your focus should be on completing all your sets and reps!