Research Suggests Well-Fitting Sports Bras Could Be The Secret To Improved Sport Performance

New data suggests that prescription sports bras could boost athletic performance.

For anyone that’s ever gone to the gym only to find you’ve forgotten your sports bra at home, forcing you to do your workout in an underwire t-shirt bra that’s far from supportive, the pain of such a situation seems to be perpetually etched in our memories. From the discomfort of wire and straps that dig into our shoulder blades, along with the bounce that makes any high-intensity exercises excruciating, such an experience is one that will ensure you never leave a sports bra at home again. 

But if you’re someone that underestimates the value of a good sports bra, it might be time to reconsider. If you watched the Euros and the stunning victory of England to claim the title, you likely would have seen the celebratory images of Chloe Kelly waving her England shirt above her head and sporting a white Nike sports bra. Now, it’s been revealed that breast biomechanics experts provided personalised bra prescriptions for the England players all in an effort to improve their comfort and ensure they were supported. Now, data seems to suggest that such support by way of bra size could have even boosted the players’ performance. 

According to Professor Joanna Wakefield-Scurr of the University of Portsmouth, who led the project, the benefits of sports bras extend beyond the physical. “Evidence suggests that sports bras have performance benefits, comfort benefits and health benefits, so I would say they’re just as important for exercising females as trainers,” she said. 

Wakefield-Scurr and her colleagues also provided prescription bras to 112 British athletes ahead of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2021. Prior to this, it was noted that most athletes wore ill-fitting, loose bras which offered limited support and saw them experiencing great discomfort during their chosen activities. After just four weeks wearing a prescription bra, 87 per cent of athletes reported having benefited, with 17 per cent saying it had improved their sports performance. 

“We were delighted because it meant the athletes had noticed a difference in their performance on the pitch, the court or wherever, and that difference was the result of changing their bra.”

prof. joanna wakefield-scurr

An ill-fitting sports bra can create breast pain and sagging tissue to chafed skin. For runners, it’s been documented that wearing an ill-fitting or unsupportive sports bra can shorten a women’s strides by up to 4cm, adding up to an extra mile over the length of a marathon. In order to choose a supportive sports bra, it’s important to take into consideration your sporting activities and breast size. 

Compression bras are often made of stretchy material that aims to flatten the breasts against the chest to minimise bounce. They have a lot of elastic in them which tends to make them quite stretchy. For those with smaller breasts that do low-impact activities, such bras are OK. But for those with bigger breasts or more intensive training or sporting pursuits, encapsulated or hybrid bras are a better option as they contain cups that support each breast. 

Wakefield-Scurr recommends turning a bra inside out to get a better look at the structural design to know which is right for you. It will either show a moulded cup that has a shape to it, or seaming where multiple panels have been sewn together. While both types are effective, some women prefer the thickness of a moulded cup. Ultimately, whatever your choice, a sports bra should support you but never restrict your breathing. Try jumping up and around in the change room and swinging your arms to ensure you don’t experience any pain or discomfort. If you do, it’s time to try another bra.

Feeling the need to invest in a supportive sports bra? Shop our pick of the best on the market, here.

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