Thursday, 7 July 2016

The importance of a well fitted bra with Firm Fit



If there’s anything you NEED for exercise women, it’s a sports bra! Forget those new Nike leggings or heart rate monitor, these are not important, a good fitting sports bra is!


 Breast structure

The female breasts are mostly comprised of fatty tissue which is supported by skin and fragile ligaments called the Coopers ligaments. No, unlike what you may think, there are no muscles within the breasts! Due to the lack of anatomical structure within the breast during high impact and repetitive exercise these non-elastic ligaments pull forcing them to stretch. Once they have stretched, they will not return to the length they once were, resulting in sagging breasts.

A good sports bra limits the amount of movement when performing high-intensity exercise such as running or jumping in dance class. Wearing ill-fitting or poorly structured bras can cause breast pain, upper back and shoulder problems.

The female breasts are affected by various hormonal changes such as menstruation, pregnancy, contraceptives and menopause. Such changes include changes in size, tenderness and density of the breasts.  It is currently unknown how the anatomical changes to a woman’s breasts that occur with age are affect the bra requirements for the older woman, however it is logical that the breasts must be supported in order to reduced shoulder, back and breast pain.

A funny story – one of my old secondary PE teachers told us that using a seated chest fly machine would reduce the sag of the breasts later in life. You can imagine the swarm of people to that machine afterwards!


The history of the sports bra

In 1977, two American women decided to make a bra more supportive for exercise. They did this through stitching 2 jock straps together. The Jockbra became the Jogbra! Nowadays a lot goes into the design of modern sports bras to provide structure and support.


 Sports bra design

Ultimately there are two common types of bras – the encapsulating bra and the compression bra.

The compression bra was the first type of bra to be designed, with its aim to restrict movement through compressing and flattening the breasts against the body. It is believed that this type of bra is better suited to women with a smaller cup size (A or B) (however at a C/D cup I feel perfectly comfortable wearing this style as long as it’s tight fitting). While women with larger breasts (C or D) require more support i.e. Encapsulating bras, which contain moulded cups to support the breasts individually. The breasts may move up to 21cm during exercise, and so the aim of the sports bra is for the breasts and trunk to move as one. Therefore even the smaller-chested of us still need some added support!

A 2013 study concluded that the most effective bras had the following features: compression, short vest style, high neckline, slings, cross back, bound neckline, no center gore, no wire, no cradle, no pad and a non-adjustable wide strap. This provides practical guidelines choosing the best design of sports bra!



A well-fitting bra

A shocking piece of research conducted by The University of Portsmouth reported ‘about half of all girls in UK secondary schools might avoid sport because of the embarrassment or pain caused by their breasts’, that  ‘only one in every ten 14 year old girls meets the government physical activity guidelines’ because ‘almost half of the girls they surveyed said their breasts had an effect on their sport or exercise participation’ and ‘15% of girls thought their breasts were too big to be able to exercise’. Even more shocking, ‘only 10% always wore a bra when exercising’. It is understandable that the teenage girl might feel uncomfortable with her changing body, however it is clear that little education has been given on the matter of breast health re the implications of not wearing a properly supportive bra. To find out more about The University of Portsmouth breast research follow this link to view an interesting infographic - http://www.port.ac.uk/department-of-sport-and-exercise-science/research/breast-health/

Additional research from the University of Portsmouth has found wearing a sports bra reduces the activity of the pectoral muscle by 55%, which could affect levels of fatigue when a woman runs. Plus supporting the breasts can significantly reduce the forces exerted through the leg and to the ground when running, reducing the risk of injury. It has also been suggested that the choice of bra may influence the breathing rate, lung capacity and thermos regulation during exercise. Therefore, by just wearing a sports bra, you could increase your athletic performance!

Indeed for the athlete, a sports bra is an integral part of their kit. The 11-times British javelin champion, Goldie Sayers has been reported to have commented that if she forgot her sports bra, she wouldn’t compete. The sports bra allows for the athlete to focus on the task at hand and not what their body is doing.






How to tell you’re wearing the wrong bra

1.       If you’re wearing the same bra to yoga as you are to run this is a bad idea! A sports bra for yoga or a barre class can be light and less supportive, however for high impact exercising you need something far more supportive.

2.       If you’re wearing two bras, then get rid!

3.       Spend the dosh to save saggy boobs. It might be all well and good paying £9.99 from H&M for a light bra, but this isn’t going to give you the proper support you need from paying £20 more on a sports brand bra.

4.       If your boobs hurt after you exercise.

5.       Cotton sports bras are not breathable enough for sport and it stretched. Sweat-wicking fabric is best! Plus, cotton sports bras are never supportive enough.

6.       6+ months old. Time to get out your purse!



 Follow these steps to find the perfectly fitted sports bra

ü  The band is horizontal around the whole trunk

ü  The cups do not bulge or gape

ü  The underwire follows the natural curve of the breast tissue

ü  The front of the bra sits flat against the chest

ü  Shoulder straps should be adjusted appropriately



Support when dancing

It was very noticeable when I was dancing 4 times a week that ballet leotards, although some fitted with a shelf bra, were not at all supportive.

During puberty I had some puppy fat on me, and consequently I had larger boobs. While they weren’t huge, I still struggled to find a good fitting leotard. Many leotard’s at the time were cut too closely under the arm pit (the side boob is not an exam requirement), had tiny thin straps with awful elastic that would easily stretch (especially as I was an am almost 6ft tall!) , low backs so you couldn’t wear a bra underneath, or had no internal bra support.

Even those bras with internal support were insufficient and at one stage I purchased a soft nude dance bra to go underneath. However this gave little more support when performing petite or grand allegro.

This problem is a very unlikely for the professional dancer. However, for young girls studying dance as a hobby, I believe better designed leotards should be made. If companies can make top quality sports bras, then there is no reason these designs cannot be integrated into a leotard.

For now, I would recommend wearing a decent sports bra underneath the leotard to help reduce any injuries or discomfort caused without.

  

Firm fit

I was recently very fortunate to be sent a few items by Firm Fit, a branch of the dance brand Dansez, a British dance and active wear manufacturer. Firm Fit design active wear for women participating in different sports and forms of exercise using high quality fabric sourced from Italy in order to support the female body through movement.

Their Minimal Bounce Bra was first launched in the 80s which has since been adapted.



The Punch Bra uses a compressive material to prevent damage to the Copper Ligaments within the breasts. I love the fit/shape of the Punch Bra as it sits very low, almost as a crop top. I have the medium size which fits me perfectly at a 10/12. The design is modern, with a bold colour showing through a black ‘mesh’ style overlay. The Layered Sports Bra is of a similar design and is a good option for those wanting something a bit brighter.



The elite sports bra is my favourite of the two I have worn! The bra is totally supportive and squishes me down to an a/b cup (which I love)! Not only this, but it stays completely in one place when moving around. When wearing most of my current sports bras I end up pulling down the bottom band after lifting my arms above my head. This can get annoying when working and exercising. Plus, the back design is pretty funky with an insert of colourful material.



Firm Fit were also kind enough to send me their Racer Vest which features a neon mesh back panel. This vest isn’t something I would usually choose to wear. However, after putting it on I am in love! The cut is perfect and fits me really well, and like the Elite Sports Bra, doesn’t ride up with movement.

These items ticks it all; chlorine resistant (for those swimmers looking for some extra support), blocks the sun’s harmful rays, is quick drying, environmentally friendly and wicks away the bodies sweat. I’m a big fan!

In the next few weeks Firm Fit are joining the organisation ‘United through Sport’ in St Lucia on the ‘Female Empowerment Project’. Here they shall be working with disadvantaged children to educate and raise awareness about health benefits of wearing a sports bra. Not only this, but they are sponsoring teams with kit, including sports bras and shorts for the girls competing in a competition in August – how ace are they!


Check out the Firm Fit range here - https://www.dans-ez.com/firmfit

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