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Running is a fitness routine that can support almost any athletic endeavor, and it also has one of the lowest investment costs of any sport. All a runner really needs to buy is a good pair of shoes, right? Not so, say local apparel experts. That thinking only works for half of the population. The other half needs another piece of equipment equally as vital to comfort and support: a quality sports bra.
“We consider a sports bra to be the No.1 piece of equipment – above footwear – that is essential to any woman who participates in sports,” said Mindy Becker, director of merchandising at Aries Apparel, a local retailer specializing in women’s fitness. “Particularly the younger athletes in high school who don’t think they need a supportive sports bra and don’t realize the harm they are doing to their bodies,” she added.
The purpose of a sports bra is to minimize movement of the breast tissue during physical activity. Since there are no muscles in the breast tissue, connective tissue called Cooper’s ligaments help support and maintain the structural integrity of the breasts. Though it’s natural for these tissues to breakdown and sag with age, exercise without a sports bra can hasten the process.
However, a sports bra does more for a female athlete than minimize bouncing.
“Having a good sports bra relates to your core performance and how you balance your body,” Becker said. “If you’re not properly supported, you are changing your form. Most women don’t make this connection to how their breast support contributes to their performance in a sport, but we consider a sports bra as a piece of equipment as essential as a bat is to softball. It is as vital for women who run two miles as for women who run marathons.”
Just as runners invest time getting properly fitted for shoes, women need to take the additional time to find the best fitting sports bra for their bodies and activities, said Alicia Foster, sales lead at Aries Apparel. She said proper fit is often a challenge regardless of cup size, so getting expert assistance in measuring and then taking the time to try on options is important for finding the best solution. Sports bra technology and fashion have come a long way, Foster added.
“Most quality sports bras are made with wicking materials; some have gel pads for the straps,” she said. “There are compression styles to minimizing the bust, but most bras have gone to encapsulation-style, to better support each breast and look more flattering. The support function can differ, also. For runners or softball players, there are bras with a high level of support, but there are low-level support bras for yoga, too.”
Some brands Foster identified as making good sports bras include Brooks, Champion and Nike. For women with larger breasts, Foster listed brands such as Shock Absorber, Anita and Enell Sport. For women with smaller breasts, the Handful Bra is a popular. Foster estimated prices for a quality sports bra as between $40 and $90. Just like running shoes, sports bras need to be replaced about every six months, she added.
Becker pointed out that because running is a high impact sport, women tend to realize they need support. However, women of all ages participating in fitness activities from yoga to volleyball can benefit from the right support.
“Whatever your activity, you don’t want to have to worry or be self-conscious about that part of your body,” Becker said.
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