5 Myths and Facts About Sagging Breasts

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“If you don’t want your boobs to hit your knees by the time you’re 30, always wear a bra, even to bed,” Halle Berry recently told InStyle. But the star—who credits wearing a bra around the clock as the reason she sports such a perky pair—may be misinformed. Take this true-or-false quiz to see just how much you know about what does (and doesn’t) cause your dynamic duo to droop.

Your breasts droop as you get older

TRUE. That’s due to stretching of the Cooper’s ligaments, the connective tissue in your breasts that helps keep ’em up and looking perky. “Like all the tissue in your body, they’re made up of collagen and elastin, which break down as you age,” explains Dan Mills, MD, vice president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. In addition, as you go through menopause, dense glandular tissue is replaced by fat that’s more likely to droop, he says.

RELATED: 13 Everyday Habits That Are Aging You

Wearing a bra can prevent breasts from sagging

FALSE. We hate to break it to you, but contrary to what Berry maintains, nothing can prevent the girls from going south. “A bra will hold up your breasts to give you the shape and look you want, but it can’t prevent further sagging, which is caused by age and gravity,” says Dr. Mills. In fact, one French researcher even suggested last year that wearing a bra encourages sagging by weakening the breast’s supporting tissue. The one exception: a supportive sports bra. Running or other high impact aerobic exercises cause boobs to bounce up and down, which over time can break down connective tissue. So sports bras do help in that department.

RELATED: 12 Sports Bras for All Body Types

The right exercises can keep your breasts perky

FALSE. All the push-ups in the world can’t reduce the droop—since breasts are made up of fat, not muscle—and so technically there’s nothing to tighten and tone. But chest exercises can help improve the appearance of your pectoral area by strengthening surrounding ligaments, including Cooper’s ligaments, which in turn may make your girls look more lively, notes Anne Taylor, MD, a clinical assistant professor of plastic surgery at Ohio State University.

Breastfeeding can cause sagging

FALSE. A 2008 study published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal concluded that breastfeeding isn’t a risk factor for ptosis (that’s a fancy name for drooping). The real culprit? Pregnancy itself. (Weight gain during pregnancy can cause ligaments to stretch, which can lead to drooping later.) While you can’t avoid sagging completely, you can minimize it by making sure you stick to a relatively healthy weight gain when you’re pregnant, says Dr. Taylor.

RELATED: How Much Weight Should You Really Gain During Pregnancy?

Smoking and suntanning affect how your breasts look

TRUE. Lighting up is a significant risk factor for breast drooping, according to the 2008 study mentioned above. The same can be said for any poor lifestyle habit that breaks down skin’s collagen—like soaking up UV rays or eating a nutrient-poor, high-fat diet, notes Dr. Mills.

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As a woman, I have been taught all my life that wearing a bra is the “proper” thing to do. Wearing a bra under your clothing keeps you looking attractive, put-together, and just all around more appropriate. Well, we’re calling malarkey.

This pro-bra message has been preached to women worldwide for centuries. With this antiqued expectation in mind, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that this symbol of femininity is now a normal, daily part of most women’s routines. But you may be surprised to hear that there are some unexpected benefits to ditching your brassiere every once and a while — or for good! Here are nine ways your health, your life, and your breasts can improve by saying adieu to your trusty old bra.

1. Improve Your Breast Shape

Contrary to what we might believe, not wearing a bra doesn’t cause your breasts to sag. In fact, a long-running French study has proven that bras most likely have the opposite effect, causing breasts to lose their shape over time. According to the study, the “support” of bras weakens the muscles in the chest, making the breasts droop.

To keep your breasts rounder and perkier, it’s actually best to let them do their own thing! Your bra is just keeping you back from even more beautiful breasts, truth be told.

2. Get a Better Night’s Sleep

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We’ve known for some time that sleeping with your bra on isn’t something scientists approve of. Rumors of this habit causing breast cancer have spread from this notion, but this severe consequence is highly unlikely and has never been proven true. However, it has been proven that wearing a bra to bed is more likely to cause discomfort and disturb your sleep cycle!

Furthermore, even if you don’t wear a bra at night, your undergarment might still be impacting your circadian rhythms, as demonstrated by this study, and keeping you from getting a full night’s sleep.

Sleep or a cute, lacy bra? Um, sleep, please. Sleep definitely wins.

3. Boost Your Circulation

The study mentioned above briefly covers the effects of clothing (especially tighter clothing) on bodily circulation. We’ll save you the skimming — frequently wearing tight clothing, especially tight bras, is not so good for your circulation.

All that tightness and squeezing around your chest can slow your circulation by compressing your major blood vessels. This has actually been proven to create cardiovascular issues down the road, which your favorite push-up is just not worth.

4. Improve You Breast Health

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The same French study that proved going bra-less improves perkiness has also proven that, on the whole, bras are not fatally bad for your health. Basically, they’re not going to cause breast cancer all on their own; there are many genetic and environmental factors at play when it comes to that.

However, not wearing a bra WILL improve your breast health in other ways! Besides improving blood flow, sweat and dirt are no longer trapped against the skin by your tight bra. This makes infections, rashes, and acne less likely on your breasts.

This is especially true is you wear bras that don’t fit quite right. Bras that don’t have the right fit, or have painful underwire, are going to cause shortness of breath, chest pains, and all sorts of discomfort. You COULD skip the step of finding an appropriately fitting bra and just not wear one at all, just saying.

5. Save Some Money

Let’s face it, bras are expensive! Especially nice, comfortable, stylish ones. No matter what amount of money you spend on bra – whether it’s $20, $50, or $100 – consider that money saved is money earned. Whatever money you would have spent on a frilly new bra can be pocketed for another time or spent on something more important to you!

6. Encourage Healthy Breast Tissue

As a part of the 15-year study previously mentioned, scientists have found that wearing a bra may be hindering your ability to grow healthy breast tissue. Healthy breast tissue is important for so many reasons; obviously, healthy tissue will decrease (but not totally prevent) your chance for various breast diseases, such as breast cancer.

Breast tissue that’s healthy will also support breasts more and help breast muscles strengthen – and, as we learned, this leads to naturally larger, stronger, rounder, and perkier breasts.

7. Comfort

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For many ladies, this could be the biggest reason to nix your bra: comfort. Seriously, is there any greater feeling of relief than taking off your bra after a long day? It is sweet, sweet freedom. Especially if we wear lacy, itchy, or tight bras, the daily discomfort can be enough to distract you all day long.

A quick fix? Taking a bra-cation, if you will. All comfort, all the time.

What do you think? Do these health benefits tempt you enough to consider ditching your bra? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

What it is: Breasts are slightly thinner at the top before rounding out to a curve.

What type of bra is best: A full-coverage style, which will shape your chest. (Since many people with this breast type are also bustier, extra support can be good for lifting and cradling.)

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The type: Globe-Trotters

What it is: Breasts are very round and equally full on top and bottom.

What type of bra is best: A thin, unlined style, which offers light coverage.

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The type: Petite

What it is: Most likely a small cup size, the breast is longer than wide.

What type of bra is best: A plunge, which will help center and lift the breasts. (Depending on your cup size and desired look, consider a bra with padding on the outer curve.)

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Victoria’s Secret Crystal Push-Up Plunge Bra

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The type: Siblings, Not Twins

What it is: Both breasts are not the same size and can be asymmetrical in shape.

What type of bra is best: A style with removable inserts, which will allow you to even out the chest.

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The type: Teardrop

What it is: If there was such a thing as a “normal” breast, we guess this would be it. The shape is full, belling out slightly at the bottom.

What type of bra is best: Pretty much any style will work. Shop based on what you prefer, coverage- and liftwise.

Fleet Feet West Hartford

We spend a lot of time talking about running injuries and how to prevent them; shin splints, plantar fasciitis, knee pain, etc. One topic that is hardly ever touched upon, but perhaps the most important, is the potential soft tissue damage that female runners can cause in their breasts. Breast pain is one of the most common complaints of female runners. In a survey conducted at the 2012 London Marathon, 32% of women indicated they experience breast pain while running.

Most female runners wear a sports bra. The big question is, are you wearing the correct sports bra? 8 out of 10 women wear the wrong size sports bra. Are you one of them? Do you wear two bras to help decrease breast movement with exercise? Does your bra cause chafing? Today, I’m going to talk about what happens to the breast tissue during exercise and what you can do to help.

Anatomically, the breast has very little built in support. There are ligaments called Coopers ligaments that support the tissue, but other than that, there’s not much going on in terms of support. When running, uncontained breasts can oscillate up to 8 inches! This movement is not only up and down, it’s also side to side and front to back. It has been proven through motion studies that the breasts actually move in a figure 8 pattern during running. Ouch! Coopers ligaments can’t withstand all of this force by themselves, which is why a good sports bra is so important. One thing all ladies want to prevent as we get older is Coopers Droopers! That’s not a technical term, but you can figure out what it means!

The largest indicator of breast pain with exercise is cup size, with a larger cup being at higher risk for pain. After cup size, the next most influential factor in pain is breast movement. Studies have shown similar degrees of movement of the breast tissue with running paces from jogging to sprinting. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you go, proper support is a must!

Not only are improperly supported breasts painful, it can also cause you to alter your biomechanics while running. Women will subconsciously alter their arm swing in order to prevent breast movement. This can cause other areas to become painful such as the shoulders, neck, and upper back. Not to mention, it really messes up your stride!

Is running bad for your breasts? It can be if you’re not properly supported, but, running has also been linked to decreased rates of breast cancer among other diseases. So keep running! Just make sure you have the proper support. Here are a few key points to look for in the fit of your sports bra:

– Band – should be snug, but not too tight. This is where you will get most of your support, so a good fit here is important. Your band shouldn’t cause chafing!

– Cup – breast tissue should be contained, not spilling out over the sides! If there is a lot of excess material, the cup is too large and you should go down in size.

– Underwire – if present, this should sit on the rib cage, not digging into the breast tissue

– The front of the bra should lay flat against the skin. If there is a gap, the bra doesn’t fit properly and will cause chafing

– Straps – should not be so tight that they are digging into the shoulder. Most of the support should come from the band and cups, not the straps.

Every woman has different needs for a sports bra. Some women will need more compression, others will need more cupping, while others need a combination of the two! It is also important to take into consideration your activity and intensity level. Running and jumping are going to require more support than yoga or biking, so certain types of bras will be more appropriate for certain activities. Make sure you are in a bra that is designed to handle the activity you are performing. Remember, wearing two bras on top of one another will not provide the same support as one properly fit sports bra!

Just like running shoes, sports bras break down over time. They can become stretched out through regular wearing and washing. Once this happens, they no longer provide the support that they once did. As a rule of thumb, replace your sports bra when you replace your running shoes (every 6 – 12 months). Your sports bra should not have a birthday!

There are so many health benefits to running. It’s important to take care of yourself so you can continue to enjoy miles and miles of pain free running. Your body (and breasts) will thank you!

April is Bra Month at Fleet Feet! Join us on April 10 for our Fit Fest and make sure you are in the right bra.

British breasts are getting bigger, with an annual survey indicating the average woman’s bra size has increased from a 36C to a 36DD – an increase in mass of around 430g. Research has shown that having larger breasts can put some women off participating in sports or exercise and even compromise sports performance.

Sports bras are extremely important for women in competitive sports, but they’re also of significant benefit for all women who exercise. Compared to typical bras, today’s sports bras are the products of considerable scientific and technological research. Sports bra design and innovation has moved on greatly from the first general exercise bra developed by Lisa Lindahl and Polly Smith in 1977, which was in fact two jockstraps sewed together.

Recent developments include seamless knitting, and even tiny sensors and built-in actuators that alter the level of support the bra provides as required. Some sports bras today contain nanostructured textile sensors that communicate with your smart phone to monitor your cardiac health, and even help to detect breast cancers.

During exercise, a woman’s torso moves in many different directions at different speeds. Since breasts contain no muscle and have limited internal support, they are essentially a mass of soft tissue that moves independently of, but is driven by, the motion of the torso. It’s this movement that sports bras and other support clothing works to reduce, altering the underlying mechanics to minimise the breasts’ motion independent of the rest of the body. This can minimise discomfort or pain, and even improve sports performance. It’s been shown that over a distance of 5km a sports bra can improve running technique, making it more economical compared to an everyday bra.

Sports bras using the encapsulation (left) and compression (right) methods to reduce movement.Mvtver

Of course, the demands placed on a sports bra increase with breast size, but larger breasts place greater demands on the body, too. Many women with larger breasts suffer from a sore back and shoulders, for example. A greater mass on the front of the body places additional strain on the posterior chain – the muscles that run down the back of the body that are key to correct posture. If these muscles have to work harder, this increased effort will require more energy.

For sportswomen, this essentially means carrying additional body mass that offers only a performance penalty rather than any gain. In sports that require pound-for-pound strength and whole body locomotion such as gymnastics, athletics or many field sports, women with larger breasts may be at a slight disadvantage.

Simona Halep at Open GDF Suez in 2010, after her breast reduction surgery.Romain Dauphin-Meunier, CC BY

However, there are limitations to what a sports bra can do. Some elite sportswomen have gone to more extreme lengths to reduce their breast size to improve performance. In 2009, Romanian tennis player Simona Halep had breast reduction surgery to go from a 34DD to 34C to help improve her reaction time and speed. Her worldwide ranking, previously below 450, improved such that by 2014 she was seeded third at Wimbledon. Her tennis coach commented that “her strokes are less restricted now that those obstacles have been reduced”.

Australian athlete Jana Rawlinson, winner of the 400m hurdles at the 2007 World Championships, revealed that she had breast implants removed to improve her chances at the 2012 Olympics. Indeed, according to American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery’s statistics, more than 100,000 women had breast reduction surgeries last year, some of whom may well have made the decision due to playing sports.

Of course, having larger breasts doesn’t rule women out of playing sports or from Olympic-level competition, as there are many attributes both physical and psychological that contribute to sporting success. But wearing proper sports bras, regardless of breast size, has been shown again and again to provide the support required to hold breasts steady and reduce or eliminate any pain women may experience. All athletes need support, and a good sports bra is an important part of it.

Some women practically live in their sports bras, whether for workouts or while lounging around at home. But is there such thing as wearing them too often or for too long? The answer is that it depends on the type of bra and whether you’ve been keeping on the same sweaty gear all day. But for the most part, you should be safe to wear it for extended periods of time — as long as it fits properly.

Bras you’ll want to avoid wearing all day long include compression sports bras, encapsulation sports bras, and underwire sports bras. According to Nike, “Compression bras use material to press breast tissue against your body to control bounce,” while encapsulated ones “feature cups that surround each breast to give you a higher level of support and control.” These two types were specifically designed with motion in mind and typically feel tighter to provide support. Some signs that indicate you should take it off promptly after your workout include:

  • If you feel any discomfort.
  • If the bands are leaving deep, red marks on your skin (and affecting circulation).
  • If your straps are pinching your skin.
  • If your chest feels tight and it’s difficult to breathe comfortably.

These are also telltale signs that your bra may be too small for you. You want it to feel supportive but above all comfortable. You should especially be good about taking your sports bra off immediately after a sweaty workout to avoid rashes and skin irritation.

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Bras that are generally safe for long wear are ones that are soft and wire-free. And in case you’re wondering if it’s OK to wear them to bed, the same rules apply. There has yet to be any research showing that sleeping with a bra or sports bra on causes breast cancer. Keeping them on won’t make your breasts perkier, either (you can’t cheat gravity and age). As long as your sports bra is dry and it doesn’t dig into your skin, wearing it for a long period of time shouldn’t cause you harm.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Rima Brindamour

Bras that flatten breasts

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