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Less pain with more support (The Straits Times, Mind Your Body, 13/03/14)


Wearing a sports bra with the right fit can minimise discomfort during exercise. Joyce Teo reports


For years, Dr Teoh Chin Sim, senior consultant and director of the Sports Medicine Centre at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, lived with the discomfort of wearing a regular bra when playing sports.

"As an active sports woman for most of my teenage and adult life, I was not aware that there were such things called sports bras, much less so about how to choose one," the 49-year-old sports physician told Mind Your Body.

"I suffered blisters on my chest from chafing because of the seams of my bra and I also had breast pain while jogging and jumping due to inadequate breast support."

Active women should not brush aside the need for a sports bra, she said, as they are designed to provide the breasts with extra support.

Without proper support, there might be pain, especially during high-impact activities, such as running and aerobics. There could also be chafing because a regular bra might not hug the body as snugly as a sports bra, for instance.

Just as importantly, breasts may sag prematurely without good support, particularly in women with larger breasts.

"Larger-breasted women are more prone to sagging with time and age because of the greater weight of the breast," said plastic surgeon Karen Sng, who practises at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre.

"A good supportive sports bra helps to counteract this as it aids in supporting breast tissue during exercise and movement. It will help to delay the onset or reduce the degree of sagging," said Dr Sng. Wearing a sports bra, however, will not prevent sagging altogether.

Sports bras basically fall into two categories – compression bras and encapsulated bras. Compression bras flatten the breasts against the chest wall so as to minimise bounce. They are made of stretch fabric and have no bra cups.

Dr Teoh said these bras are more suitable for women with smaller breasts or those who engage in lower-impact activities.

Women with a larger cup size or those who engage in high-impact activities should choose encapsulated sports bras as they have individual cups which surround and support each breast. These look much like your regular bras and may have under-wire for extra support.

Encapsulated bras are suitable for those who are C cup and above, while compression bras are suitable for those who are either A cup or B cup.

Ms Joyce Foo, senior product manager at Redina Group, which distributes the Jockey brand of undergarments, said sports bras should be replaced after 40 washes or more. "To maximise the lifespan of your bra, always hang it to dry rather than use a machine dryer. You will know it's time to bid your sports bra goodbye when the fit becomes looser and the fabric is pilling," she said.

What to look out for in a sports bra

1. For better support, the band around the bottom of the bra should be wide rather than narrow.

2. It should sit against the chest wall underneath the breasts and be a snug fit, which means it should not slide up if you raise your arms.

3. Wider straps would provide better distribution of weight for larger-breasted women.

4. The straps should not stretch too much so as to reduce the up-down movement of the breasts.

5. Choose a sports bra which is made of a material that can wick away moisture from your skin.

6. To prevent chafing around the arm-holes, shoulders and below the breasts, select seamless material, covered seams or those with rolled edges.

7. Make sure your sports bra fits snugly, without any wrinkles and crinkles. The whole breast should sit inside the bra so that it is held against the chest. The material should be firm enough and not too "stretchy" to provide good support.

Information by Dr Teoh Chin Sim, senior consultant and director of the Sports Medicine Centre at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, and plastic surgeon Dr Karen Sng at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.

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