Specialty Program - Youth

How Science Shows the Best Sports Bra is a Looser Fitting One

What’s a Rich Text element?

stretch affect
March 14, 2024

The best sports bra…does it exist?

You may have never thought of this question, but it is a good one to ask, with an interesting answer. Believe it or not some women could see real performance benefits if they loosened their sports bra.

The best sports bras are mostly a matter of preference. Women often try several styles and brands until they find one that balances restriction and breast displacement.

Often times, many women just settle on a bra that’ll do the job, but still isn’t comfortable.

Common statements about sports bras go something like this:

It’s hard for those of us with bigger cup sizes to get enough support with a sports bra that has a looser band which is frustrating.

I have found ONE or two bras that hold my chest down enough and control movement without feeling too constricting at the under band. I always have to buy one where it’s uncomfortable at rest but keeps everything in place.

I basically never feel comfortable in my sports bras before or after a run. Only when running because they control bounce but are restrictive.

A recent study set out to understand if the underband of a sports bra can restrict breathing mechanics and increase oxygen consumption.

But first a word about VO2 max, which is mentioned a lot in the study.

Why VO2 Max is an indicator of cardiovascular fitness.

VO₂ max, or maximal oxygen consumption, refers to the maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilize during exercise. It is a key indicator of cardiovascular fitness.

When you engage in physical activity, your muscles require energy. Oxygen plays a crucial role in this process by aiding the breakdown of glucose and fats to produce ATP, the molecule that fuels muscle contractions.

A higher VO₂ max signifies an efficient cardiovascular system capable of delivering more oxygen to working muscles. This leads to improved endurance and performance during aerobic activities like running, cycling, and swimming.

By increasing your VO₂ max, you can boost your body's ability to sustain prolonged physical exertion at higher intensities. This translates into better performance and stamina during endurance exercises.

A high VO₂ max is crucial for predicting athletic performance, indicating the maximum amount of oxygen an individual can utilize during intense exercise. Athletes with higher aerobic fitness levels typically have an elevated VO₂ max, enabling them to perform better in endurance activities.

What did they find?

Increasing the pressure of the sports bra underband increased the amount of work the respiratory muscles had to perform and increased whole body oxygen consumption (i.e. running economy was worse).

The participants also changed their breathing patterns: they took faster, more shallow breaths as the band tightness increased.

And on average there was a 1.3% increase in VO₂ from a loose to tight fitting bra.

To put these results into context:

For an individual running a 3 hour marathon, a 2% improvement in VO₂ would equate to a 3 minute improvement.

What does this mean?

Some women could see real performance benefits if they loosened their sports bra.

Recommendations to find the best sports bra

  • Best take away from the current study is to wear a properly fitting sports bra. Many women pick a sports bra size based on how the bra feels at rest and not at exercise, which might contribute to women wearing bras that provide too much restriction during exercise.
  • Don’t get stuck in the mindset of wearing a certain size. Try on different sizes to see if you can find a good balance between comfort and motion control.  The study participants found they could size up (less thoracic restriction) and running was still comfortable.
  • Consider trying bras that have an adjustable strap or the placement of the band is farther down on the ribs.
  • Women with smaller breasts can consider a crop top style which compress the breasts as a single unit firmly against the chest wall.
  • Larger breasted women should stick to encapsulation sports bras because they are superior to crop tops in limiting vertical breast displacement.

Features of the best sports bra

The authors of Biomechanics of Breast Support for Active Women have extensively outlined “fit tips” that women should consider when choosing a sports bra.

Factors to consider include:

  • Cups
  • Band
  • Straps
  • Material
  • Closures
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

What the best sports bra should feel like

Women have probably never been taught what their sports bra should feel like.

Sports bras should not completely eliminate breast bounce because they are often too uncomfortable to wear.

Instead, bras that limit vertical bounce by approximately 60% relative to when a woman is not wearing a bra are sufficient to be deemed high-support sports bras.

Collectively the investigators learned that sports bra underbands can have a direct effect on respiratory function and influence whole body metabolic rate during exercise. The authors note they did not perform this study on women who had a cup size above a C and acknowledge this finding may only benefit women with smaller breast sizes. Further research into bra sizes and types for women of all breast sizes is warranted. But in the meantime it could be a valuable test for women to try out a looser fitting bra to see if it improves your breathing pattern during exercise.

On a side note.

This study, lead by women about women is pretty cool.

When the author of the study, Shayala Kipp, posted these results on Instagram, her comments section exploded with women (and some men) who were thankful for conducting this type of research.  

Because not until 1993 was it a federal law to include women in clinical trials!

Say what now???

In 1977, a Food and Drug Administration policy recommended excluding women of childbearing potential from Phase I and early Phase II drug trials. However, this ruling also applied to single women, those using contraception, or those whose husbands were vasectomized.

In 1989, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) began to put policies in place recommending the inclusion of women in scientific studies.

It wasn’t until 1993, when the FDA’s 1977 guidelines were reversed and the inclusion of women in clinical trials became part of Federal law, allowing the number of female participants steadily begin to increase.

So there’s a big gap to fill when it comes to research as it relates to women and this study is just doing its part to dig into areas that haven’t been looked into before.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

  • sdbare
  • sbearb

Static and dynamic content editing

  1. reshb
  2. rferh
Stretch Affect

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.