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How to find the right sports bra, according to fitness enthusiasts

On her very first marathon, Filipina athlete Jaymie Pizarro wounded and chafed her entire bra line because, simply put, she was wearing an ill-fitting sports bra. "I wasn't aware that it was slightly loose in the garterized area," she shakes her head.

A runner 13 years — and one who has quite an active lifestyle — Jaymie has since then learned the different types of sports bra, and which types certain sports require.



A post shared by Jaymie Crisostomo Pizarro (@thebullrunner) on


Finding the right sports bra fit is something most women often overlook, but it actually matters more than we think — not just at performing better at their chosen sport, but even to get women into into sports.

A study on the Journal of Science and Medicine Sports looked at women vis-a-vis a sedentary lifestyle and found that women with larger breasts who experience more motion participated less in physical activities compared to women with smaller breasts.

"Breast size should be acknowledged as a potential barrier to women participating in physical activity," the study said, which was reported on Women's Health Magazine.

Enter sports bras: With the right fit, sports bras don’t only encourage women to get into sports, they help ladies enjoy their sports and even become better at it.


By Jannielyn Ann Bigtas/GMA News
By Jannielyn Ann Bigtas/GMA News

So how do you know when it’s the right fit? To answer that, perhaps it’s best to define what a bad fit is.

Dr. Ian Banzon, an athlete and a physician practicing medical and sports acupuncture said a bad fit restricts one's movement — which, by the way, can also lead to injuries.

"My movements are restricted and I'm not confident to perform, the movement form might suffer, not doing correct form can lead to injury," Dr. Ian said.

She added a bad fit is something "not comfortable moving in."

"If it's too tight, it restricts breathing a bit or it gives me a bit of a tummy ache. If it's too loose, you feel everything is just moving," she said.



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Which is not the case with a well-fitted sports bra, because a well-fitted sports bra gives you good support. And good support, according to Jaymie can make your breasts feel almost weightless. "You don't even know it's there. You can focus on the race or your sport."

Noelle De Guzman, a sports content producer and a retired exercise instructor, who wears a C cup for normal bras, says a good support is a major consideration for her because “I can’t participate in my sport or workout without being conscious about the excessive bouncing and the pain this gave me. So I definitely couldn't concentrate on just performing well," Noelle said.

“The perfect sports bra lets you forget that you're wearing a bra. It would compress what needs to be compressed, but allows you to move properly for your sport," she adds.



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Now that we’ve established support as the most important thing, the next thing to do is ask: For what sport will you need it? 

In the Expert Advice section of its website, US sports store Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) categorized sports according to how much breast support its movements require.

There are three categories:

  • Low support sports are more relaxed with activities that won’t cause so much high-intensity motion. Examples include walking, yoga, and strength training.
  • Medium support sports generate moderate intensity movements like hiking, skiing, and road cycling.
  • High support sports cause high-intensity movements namely running, aerobics and mountain biking.

Jaymie’s preferences match with REI’s suggestions. "For the gym, yoga, spinning, and other lighter workouts, I often use the same bras but I also use cotton bras with less support since the activity is less intense."

"For cycling and yoga, I can get away with bras that offer only light support, because I won't be bouncing around during those sports," Noelle agrees.

Next, look at the bra’s construction. According to Shape Magazine, there are two major types:

  • Compression offers full support by hugging your breasts close to your chest. It could give the wearer a “uniboob” look and as such, Shape recommends it to women with smaller breasts
  • Encapsulation, meanwhile, will seem to have breasts into two distinct cups, which supports each boob separately, and as such might be a better choice for larger breasted women. 

Recently however, brands have started to to offer combination types, which have the features of both Encapsulation and Compression.

According to REI, combination is the best for high-impact sports because it both “supportive and comfortable.”

“These bras offer more support than compression or encapsulation alone, making them generally best for high-impact activities,” REI wrote.

Experts also recommend looking into the band, which forms the foundation of the bra, REI says, and the straps, from which more support comes.

The band of course must be snug, but remember, it should never be tight. REI recommends being able to insert two fingers through it, while Shape suggests sliding a finger through it and being able to pull the band not more than an inch.

Regarding the bra’s straps: Generally speaking, thicker straps provide more support than thin straps, but there is a variety of styles to consider.

Racerbacks are those with straps that come together to form a Y in your back — secures the bra closer to the body, and as such provides good support, especially for medium to high impact sports.

It’s a style that Noelle approves of: "Crossback or racerback styles are great because they distribute the weight of my chest across my shoulders and will stay in place."

Wide straps meanwhile are similar to your everyday bra. They distribute the weight across your back.

The fashionable crisscross has thin straps crisscrossing the wearer’s back, which much like the racerback, provides ample support.

And finally, there is the material to consider. Jaymie suggests choosing sports bras that wick moisture and soak the sweat so you’re kept dry and comfortable.

REI makes the case that the more support a sports bra gives, the less it is able to wick moisture, so it’s always healthy to go back to the first point: What are you going to use the bra for?

Keep in mind what Dr. Ian says: Finding and investing on the right sports bra is important because it will not only affect your performance but also your motivation and confidence to move around.

"Finding the right bra is essential! It will help you be a better athlete, by making you feel confident and comfortable," she said. — LA, GMA News