The Results of Exercise on the Female Breast

You'll see magazine articles galore promising you an exercise solution to perk up sagging breasts or increase your size. Your breasts, however, are made up mostly of fat tissue, so you can't tone fat with exercise. You can only lose it — to reduce size — or strengthen the muscles around your chest to create the illusion of size and lift.

A change in breast size often means you've lost or gained weight. (Image: mheim3011/iStock/Getty Images)

Fat Loss and Your Breasts

A woman's breasts are made up of fat tissue, with some duct and lobule tissue mixed in for breast feeding purposes. Some women are genetically predisposed to have more generous fat deposits in their chest, while others are less well-endowed. Your weight also affects the size of your breasts.

So, if you exercise with lots of cardio to lose fat, inevitably you'll lose some volume from your chest. You can't be sure how much — some women find that the moment they start to lose weight, their breasts diminish in size. Other women lose breast weight last and can achieve slim hips, thighs and stomachs without losing a cup size. This is just the way the DNA dice roll. You can create the environment for fat loss, but from where in your body you lose that fat is up to your personal genetic code.

Female bodybuilders and other competitive athletes may appear to have small breasts because they're at such low levels of body fat. Their breast size isn't due to the type of exercise they do, it's because much of the fat in their breasts has shrunk.

Muscle Gain in the Chest

When you break down muscle with resistance training, it grows back thicker, stronger and often more voluminous. Fat doesn't respond the same way. So, you simply can't do push-ups and chest flyes in hopes of changing your cup size.

Your pectoralis major muscle lies underneath the breast tissue, however. When you build this muscle, you might experience a slight increase in the diameter of your chest and offer a mild lift to the breasts themselves.

Competitive female body builders often have diminished breast size because they'r so very lean. (Image: shironosov/iStock/Getty Images)

Breast Health

Exercise can definitely offer a guaranteed positive to a woman's breast health. A meta analysis published in a 2009 issue of Methods in Molecular Biology confirmed that exercise and physical activity have a beneficial role in breast cancer prevention and rehabilitation.

Exercise helps a woman maintain good cardiovascular, respiratory and immune health. It also affords women suffering from breast cancer psychological and social benefits, showed a 2012 study published in Women and Health. Women who enrolled in a year-long regular exercise program at various phases of their diagnosis reported feeling greater control over their bodies, greater acceptance of their diagnosis and improved mental states.

A Complicated Relationship

It might be more important to consider the effects the breasts have on exercise, instead of exercise's effects on the breast. In a 2015 issue of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, a study by British researchers identified breast insecurities to be the fourth greatest barrier to physical activity among 250 women surveyed. These women expressed feeling self-conscious about excessive breast movement and discomfort from poor-fitting bras during exercise. Motivation, time and health were the first three major barriers to women becoming more active.

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