Is It Bad to Exercise Without a Bra?

Exercise clothing is typically designed to allow free movement. However, women who discard their bra during exercise should consider the effect this has on their breasts.

A woman is training in a studio.
Credit: XiXinXing/XiXinXing/Getty Images

Stop the Bounce

Wearing a fashion bra for exercise can be uncomfortable. However, research studies in the United Kingdom and Australia agree that most women need a supportive sports bra. Not wearing a bra puts undue strain on breast tissue and causes painful discomfort, according to a 2008 study by researchers at the University of Wollongong, published in the "British Journal of Sports Medicine." The breasts are composed of fatty tissue supported by skin and structures called Cooper's ligaments. Exercising without supporting the ligaments stretches them and causes sagging. It also causes breast pain. Sports bra support is particularly important for high-energy, high-impact sports: these cause the breasts to move up and down and from side to side. Unsupported breast movement can also cause upper back and neck tension in larger-breasted women. This is because the back muscles have to work harder to keep the shoulders from being pulled forward by the weight of the breasts. The University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom notes that compression sports bras are considered better for small-breasted women, while encapsulation bras may be better for larger ladies.

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