If you're unhappy with your breast size, you might be wondering if working out can make your boobs smaller. Physical activity can help — up to a point. Although there are no magic exercises to reduce breast size only, you can use physical activity and a healthy diet to reduce your overall body fat. This will, in turn, reduce the fat in your breasts.
Although your breasts will become smaller, how the fat comes off — and the way it affects your breast size and shape — is unique to each woman.
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First, a Quick Refresher on Breast Anatomy
Breasts are composed of fatty tissue, glandular tissue used to produce breast milk and connective tissue that holds everything together, according to Stony Brook University Hospital.
Your breasts are on top of your pectoral muscles, but there's no muscle tissue in the breast itself. A variety of factors contribute to your breast size and the shape of your breasts, per Stony Brook University Hospital, including your weight, genetic factors and the ligaments that support your breasts.
Yes, exercise can reduce your breast size — but only to a point. That's because only part of your breasts are made up of fat that exercise can affect; they also contain lymph nodes, connective tissue and milk glands/ducts, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Exercises to Reduce Breast Size
To get one thing out of the way, the idea of spot reduction — that you can target exercises to remove fat from just one part of your body — is a myth. That means there are no exercises that will remove fat from only your breasts.
Chest exercises might affect how your breasts look, but will not change their volume. Your breasts sit on top of your pectoral muscles, which are right above your rib cage, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Pectoral exercises can strengthen those muscles, which may make your breasts appear slightly more lifted.
Chest exercises will not, however, increase or decrease the size of your breasts, because there is no muscle tissue in your breasts. Any recommendations for chest exercises for small breasts will probably not be effective in changing your breast size. No specific exercises can increase breast size or decrease breast size.
What you can do, however, is establish a calorie deficit, which means you're burning more calories than you take in. When you do that, you'll lose fat from all over your body, including your breasts. (An important note: Reducing food and exercise to nothing more than calories can lead to restrictive or disordered eating and exercise behaviors. You can be sure you're making the best choices for your health when you get physical activity you enjoy and eat nutrient-dense foods.)
Ultimately, the best exercises to reduce your overall body fat, and thus your breast size, are those that you enjoy enough to keep up over the long term. That's because as much as you might wish for an instant change in breast size, gradual and consistent weight loss is the best way to make sure the excess pounds you lose don't come back into play again — and maybe even bring some friends back with them.
With that in mind, the world is your oyster. If you've ever dreamed of trying a specific type of physical activity, now's the time. Some ideas to get you started:
- Strength training
- Walking/jogging/running your first 5K
Although establishing a calorie deficit and doing cardio exercises to reduce breast size can help, your breasts also contain lymph glands, milk ducts and connective tissue, and exercise won't reduce the size of those components.
Also, the elasticity of skin varies from woman to woman, so after a marked weight loss you might be left with loose skin that translates to "sagging" or "deflated" breasts. In each of those cases, you can try exercises to lift sagging breasts, like push-ups, bench presses and chest flyes.
Additionally, you might be a candidate for surgical breast reduction. If you're interested in this option, talk to your doctor about if this is a good plan for you.
How Much Should You Exercise?
When it comes to physical activity, it's hard to predict exactly how much exercise you'll need to get that calorie deficit rolling because everyone is different. If you want an initial goal to aim for, use the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) physical activity guidelines for adults: 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio per week, plus two days of strength training.
Those guidelines are actually for good health, not weight loss, so it's possible that you might need to exercise more. You can double the CDC's amount to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio or 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio per week.
Tips for Exercising With Larger Breasts
A study published in the April 2015 issue of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that complaints such as breast pain and embarrassment over excessive breast movement were barriers to physical activity for 17 percent of the women surveyed. If you have large breasts, you probably already know this — and telling you that you need to exercise more to make your breasts smaller might seem like a cruel joke.
But you do have two solutions available to you right away. The first is a good sports bra, which can do a lot to lock "the girls" in place. Don't put on any old sports bra: Look for one that's designed for high-impact activities, which will do the most to reduce the pain and discomfort of excessive breast movement.
The second solution is doing low-impact exercises, which provoke less breast motion than high-impact exercises such as running. Even if a good sports bra isn't available to you right away due to sizing, cost or geographic location, you can still get excellent weight loss results from low-impact workouts such as yoga, strength training, walking, cycling and swimming.
A Word on Nutrition for Reducing Breast Size
Healthy eating is the most powerful way to lose body fat, including from your breasts. Burning more calories than you eat (aka a calorie deficit) is the way to start shedding body fat, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Although you can do that by moving a lot, the process will be faster and easier if you also adjust your dietary habits to focus on foods that are rich in nutrients. Eat a good balance of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and healthy fats like avocados, seeds and nuts, recommends the Office on Women's Health.
If you choose to strength train with exercises to reduce breast size, increasing your protein intake can help build lean muscle, improving your overall ratio of body fat to lean mass, according to a March 2016 position statement in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- ExRx.net: "Spot Reduction Myth"
- Journal of Physical Activity and Health: "The Influence of the Breast on Physical Activity Participation in Females"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Losing Weight"
- Mayo Clinic: " Female breast anatomy"
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance"
- Mayo Clinic: "Weight Loss"
- CDC: "How much physical activity do adults need?"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Overview of the Breast"