Health
Friday, March 7, 2014
Properly fitting a sports bra

By Daniel Reynen Citizen Columnist

The 1970s was a decade that gave the world the Pet Rock, mood rings and VHS video recorders. Each one had it's moment of glory, only to be tossed aside as trends changed. But one thing that appeared in the 1970s had real staying power: the sports bra. An early version invented by Lisa Lindahl and Polly Smith was nothing more than a couple of jockstraps sewn together to help prevent bounce and soreness. They called it the "jockbra." After awhile they renamed it the "jogbra," and sports bras quickly became big business.

Over 50 percent of women experience exercise-related breast pain during and after workouts. Chests have suspensory ligaments, known as Coopers ligaments. Those ligaments are responsible for holding breasts up and giving them their size and shape. Women who run or engage in vigorous activities stretch those ligaments. All that bouncing around really hurts, but that isn't the only problem. Once those ligaments are stretched, they don't return to their original position, leading to a condition known as "Coopers Droop" and stretch marks.

Sports bras are designed to prevent those problems. They minimize movement, reduce pain and help stop excess stretching of Coopers ligaments. But in order to do that properly, the bra has to be the right size (refer to the directions in the box).

Of course this is just a starting point to help you narrow down which bras you should try on. The next step is choosing a sports bra appropriate to your activity. The higher impact your activity is, the more control you should get from your bra. Here are some samples of various impact levels:

• Low impact activities are things like gardening, road cycling, walking, weight training and yoga.

• Medium impact activities include high-intensity workouts, hiking, in-line skating, pilates, power walking and skiing.

• High impact activities are boxing, dancing, horseback riding, jogging, mountain biking, running, soccer, step aerobics and tennis.

The next big decision is between compression or encapsulation bras. Compression bras work by compressing the breasts against the chest wall. They typically don't hook in the back, they simply slide over the head. Compression bras are considered a better choice for women who have smaller cup sizes (A or B) and for low or medium impact sports.

Encapsulation bras have separate molded cups that surround each breast separately. They allow independent movement of each breast and are considered a better choice for large-breasted women and high impact activities. They may or may not include an underwire for additional support.

Hybrids are available. You can now find encapsulation bras (with separate molded cups) combined with a compression bra. These are designed to give optimal support during high impact activities for women who have C and D cup sizes. They can be pulled over the head or secured by fasteners.

Follow these guides for the best size and type of bra. Next week I'll share tips on how to pick one that won't pinch, chafe or slip and create a "wardrobe malfunction."

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