Having big breasts comes with challenges. You may experience back pain, have difficulty running and struggle to find clothes that fit in all the right places. Luckily, if you're trying to find a solution, it's possible to reduce breast size naturally through diet and exercise.
If you have overweight or obesity, a balanced diet combined with regular exercise can help you get leaner and reduce breast size. You should also see your doctor for a customized treatment plan.
Factors That Influence Breast Size
Large, heavy breasts may trigger or worsen neck and back pain, among other issues. Some women may also experience headaches and shoulder ache. These symptoms usually go away after mammoplasty, or breast reduction surgery, reports a study published in the Open Orthopaedics Journal in April 2012.
Going under the knife should be your last option, though. There are safer, less invasive ways to reduce breast size and relieve the back pain associate with big breasts. If you carry a few extra pounds, weight loss might be the answer.
Breasts consist largely of fat cells, as well as other tissues, explains the National Breast Cancer Foundation. That's why many women notice a reduction in breast size after weight loss. Likewise, if you gain weight, your breasts may become larger.
However, body composition isn't the only factor that influences breast size. Genetics and hormones also play a role. For example, a review featured in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention in May 2013 found that more than 35 percent of women experienced an increase in breast size after pregnancy. Another 21.8 percent reported a decrease in cup size. These changes are due to the hormonal fluctuations associated with pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Sometimes, diet and exercise may indirectly help reduce breast size. Just make sure you have realistic expectations and remember that you cannot spot-reduce fat.
Chest exercises, for instance, can strengthen the muscles beneath your breasts, making them appear firmer, but they won't shrink breast tissue. To lose fat, it's necessary to create a calorie deficit through diet, physical activity or both. Simply put, chest exercises alone are unlikely to reduce a person's breast size.
Add Cardio to Your Workouts
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. If you prefer a more vigorous workout, do it for 75 to 150 minutes each week. Aerobic training not only burns calories but also supports cardiovascular health and may improve overall fitness.
A study featured in the journal Obesity in November 2012 suggests that aerobic exercise alone may cause significant weight loss in sedentary individuals with overweight and obesity. Subjects lost about 5 percent of their initial body weight over 10 months. This effect was due to a reduction in fat mass, not muscle.
Try going for a run, commit to a jogging routine, take your bike for a ride or exercise at home. Consider wearing a supportive sports bra to minimize discomfort during your run. A quality bra can make all the difference, especially for women with large breasts.
Crank up the intensity to burn more calories. HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, can be used for both cardiovascular and strength exercises. Due to its intense nature, it causes your body to burn calories during and after training. In the long run, it may help improve body composition, or fat-to-muscle ratio, and boost metabolic health. It also takes significantly less time than steady-state cardio, points out the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
A typical HIIT workout lasts 20 to 30 minutes and alternates between short, intense bursts of exercise and rest or low-intensity training. If you work out at home, you can do burpees, push-ups, jump squats and other body-weight exercises for 30 seconds, rest for another 30 seconds and then repeat.
Chest Exercises for Big Breasts
As discussed, chest exercises won't make your breasts smaller. However, they can strengthen the pectoral muscles and improve the appearance of sagging breasts, which is a common side effect of weight loss.
According to ACE, compound movements such as bench presses are particularly effective because they hit multiple muscles at once and burn a huge number of calories. Cable crossovers and other isolation exercises, on the other hand, may help improve muscle definition.
Read more: The Best Exercises for Every Major Muscle
An study conducted by ACE in October 2012 found that barbell bench presses, pec-deck flyes and bent-forward cable crossovers activate the chest muscles to a greater extent than machine chest presses, inclined dumbbell flyes, dips and other movements.
If you exercise at home, you can use dumbbells, resistance bands and other accessories to work your chest. A suspension training system, for instance, takes up little space and can replace free weights. Here are some ideas to try:
Move 1: Bent Knee Push-Ups
- Kneel on the floor, with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width, as recommended by ExRx.net.
- Keep your knees bent and your ankles crossed. Position your shoulders over your hands.
- Bend your arms, lowering your body until your chest touches the floor. Keep your back straight and your elbows close to your sides.
- Squeeze your chest muscles and push your body up until your arms are fully extended. Repeat.
Experiment with different push-up variations as you progress. Try standard push-ups, single-leg raised push-ups, diamond push-ups or isometric push-ups. You'll work your muscles from different angles and improve your overall conditioning.
Move 2: Standing Chest Press With Resistance Bands
- Wrap a resistance band around a doorknob or another stable object at chest height.
- Grab each hand with your hands. Bend your elbows and keep your arms at your sides.
- Push the band in front of you while squeezing your chest muscles. Hold for one second, recommends the Cleveland Clinic.
- Continue until your arms are fully extended. Repeat.
Balance Your Hormones
Hormonal fluctuations and imbalances may also increase breast size. In general, estrogen and progesterone are the culprits, states Harvard Health Publishing. Exercise may help improve estrogen metabolism, suggests a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention in May 2014. Moderate-to-vigorous aerobic training appears to be particularly effective.
Some medications and supplements contain either estrogen or phytoestrogens that may stimulate the growth of breast tissue. Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring compounds with estrogen-like properties. These substances can be found in soy, licorice, hops, alfalfa, flaxseeds and some other plants, according to Winchester Hospital. Therefore, you could try removing these foods from your diet for a few weeks to see how your body reacts.
Pregnancy, birth control pills and certain disorders or conditions may cause hormonal fluctuations too. If you notice an increase in breast size, consider reaching out to your doctor. They may recommend blood tests to check your hormone levels and establish the best course of action.
Read more: Estrogenic Foods to Avoid
- Open Orthopaedics Journal: "Relationship Between Brassiere Cup Size and Shoulder-Neck Pain in Women"
- National Breast Cancer Foundation: "Breast Anatomy"
- European Journal of Cancer Prevention: "Factors Influencing Breast Changes After Pregnancy"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans"
- Obesity: "Aerobic Exercise Alone Results in Clinically Significant Weight Loss for Men and Women: Midwest Exercise Trial 2"
- American Council on Exercise: "High-Intensity Interval Training: Why It Works"
- American Council on Exercise: "5 Benefits of Compound Exercises"
- American Council on Exercise: "Top 3 Most Effective Chest Exercises"
- ExRx.net: "Push-Up (on Knees)"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Should You Try Resistance Bands for Strength Training?"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "By the Way, Doctor: Do Breast-Enhancement Supplements Work?"
- Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention: "The Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Estrogen Metabolism in Healthy Premenopausal Women"
- Winchester Hospital: "Breast Enhancement"