If you're unhappy with your breast size, working out 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.
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.
Your Breast Reduction Plan
Sorry, but 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.
What you can do, however, is established 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.
The other thing you can do to reduce your breast size is focus on a healthy diet — because eating an appropriate number of calories and choosing nutrient-rich foods helps establish the calorie deficit you want. While this two-part diet and exercise plan might not be as exciting as a crash diet, findings from the National Weight Control Registry show that the vast majority of people who lose weight and keep it off do it with a combination of healthy dietary adjustments and physical activity.
Exercises to Reduce Breast Size
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, whether it's dancing, hiking, paddling a sea kayak or walking/jogging/running your first 5k.
Keeping the Girls in Check
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 two methods sports bras use to keep things in check are compression and encapsulation; for large-breasted women, a combination of both methods may offer the best comfort and breast restraint.
The second solution is tackling 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, whether because of sizing, cost or geographic location, you can still get excellent weight loss results from low-impact workouts such as walking, cycling and swimming.
How Much Should I Exercise?
When it comes to physical activity, more is almost always better — and it's impossible to predict exactly how much exercise you'll need to get that calorie deficit rolling. If you want an initial goal to aim for, use the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services physical activity guidelines for adults: 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio per week.
Those guidelines are actually for good health, not weight loss, so it's possible that you might need to exercise more. A good second goal is doubling that amount to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio or 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio per week. Not only will you be burning more calories, you'll also enjoy more health benefits from the increased physical activity.
Eating for Smaller Breasts
Remember, to lose excess body fat, you need to establish a calorie deficit. Although you can do that simply 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. A few of the key concepts you should incorporate into your diet are:
- Eat lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains, high-quality protein sources and healthy unsaturated fats.
- Limit your intake of sodium, added sugar, and saturated and trans fats.
- Stay away from highly processed foods and refined gains.
As long as you focus on nutrient-rich food, you don't necessarily need to count calories to lose weight. But if you want the extra assurance of a calorie goal, Appendix 2 of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020, offers helpful estimates based on your gender, age and activity level. For example, if you're a sedentary 40-year-old woman, you only need about 1,800 calories per day. But if you increase to an "active" level, you'll need about 2,200 calories per day.
Alternatives to Consider
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 might be a candidate for surgical breast reduction; speak to your doctor about whether this is a good option for you.
- Mayo Clinic: "Slide Show: Female Breast Anatomy"
- ExRx.net: "Spot Reduction Myth"
- National Weight Control Registry: "NWCR Facts"
- Journal of Physical Activity and Health: "The Influence of the Breast on Physical Activity Participation in Females"
- Sports Bras Direct: "What Does 'Compression' or 'Encapsulation' Actually Mean?"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Losing Weight"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- Health.gov: "Key Elements of Healthy Eating Patterns"
- Health.gov: "Estimated Calorie Needs Per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level"
- Health.gov: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans"