Wearing the correct sports bra may increase running performance by up to 7%, according to a new study.
More support during running is linked to increased knee joint stiffness. This stiffness, which alters the lower body movement, has previously been linked to improved running performance.
In a study of 12 recreational runners, who self-reported they wore B, C and D-cup bras, wearing a high-support sports bra increased knee joint stiffness by 5% compared to a 2% increase in a low-support sports bra.
Taking into account these results and findings from a previous study they conducted, the researchers suggest a high-support sports bra can improve a woman’s running performance by 7%.
Researchers suggested that breast pain can be a significant barrier to exercise, with 72% reporting soreness while running.
Dr Douglas Powell of the University of Memphis in the US said: “The findings show that breast support not only influences movement of the breasts but that compensations occur across the entire body.
“These compensations can lead to reduced running performance, increased injury risk and even the development of chronic pain such as back and chest pain.
He added: “Over the past 50 years, limited evolution in bra design has occurred.
“Our findings, in conjunction with previous research studies, show that sports bras should be considered not only as apparel, but also as sports equipment that can both improve performance and reduce the risk of injury, playing a role in women’s health.”
Researchers at the Breast Biomechanics Research Centre at the University of Memphis wanted to investigate the effect of a good sports bra on running biomechanics – the movement of the body.
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Previous research has shown the increased support sports bras offer not only influences breast movement but can also positively influence running performance.
Greater breast support has also been linked to lower oxygen consumption and better range of motion.
Dr Powell said: “The biomechanics underlying improved running performance with greater breast support are not well understood.
“Our study represents one of a series of research studies on the topic of breast support and whole body biomechanics.
“We wanted to identify strategies to reduce activity-induced breast pain for females, a group that makes up approximately 50% of the population.”
The study was published in Frontiers in Sports and Active Living.