Wearing the right sports bra can improve running performance by as much as 7 percent, according to a new study.
More support during running was associated with increased knee stiffness. This stiffness, which alters lower-body motion, has previously been linked to improved running performance.
In a study of 12 recreational runners who reported wearing B, C, and D cup bras, knee stiffness increased by 5% when wearing a high-support sports bra and 2% when wearing a low-support sports bra.
Taking these results into account and findings from a previous study they conducted, the researchers suggested that a high-support sports bra could improve women’s running performance by 7 percent.
Breast pain can be a significant barrier to exercise, with 72 percent reporting soreness while running, the researchers said.
Dr Douglas Powell, of the University of Memphis in the US, said: “The findings suggest that breast support not only affects breast movement, but that compensation occurs throughout the body.
“These compensations can lead to decreased running performance, increased risk of injury, and even the development of chronic pain such as back and chest pain.
He added: “Over the past 50 years, there has been limited development in bra design.
“Our findings, combined with previous research, suggest that sports bras should be viewed not just as clothing, but as athletic equipment that can play a role in women’s health by enhancing performance while reducing the risk of injury.”
Researchers at the Breast Biomechanics Research Center at the University of Memphis wanted to study the effect of a high-quality sports bra on running biomechanics — the movement of the body.
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Previous research has shown that sports bras with added support not only affect breast movement, but also have a positive impact on running performance.
Better breast support is also associated with lower oxygen consumption and better range of motion.
“The biomechanics of improving running performance through better breast support are not well understood,” Dr Powell said.
“Our study represents one in a series of studies on the topic of breast support and whole-body biomechanics.
“We wanted to identify strategies to reduce activity-induced breast pain in women, a group that makes up approximately 50 percent of the population.”
The study was published in Frontiers in Exercise and Active Living.