Big boobs make running harder: there, I said it.
There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, elite distance runners (something I will never be) tend to be long, lean ectomorphs. Running doesn’t create the body type, rather these very lithe figures facilitate speed over long distances.
Secondly it can be painful to run when various body parts feel, by nature of their size, more susceptible to the forces of gravity. Just think about it: running is a contact sport insofar as your feet are pounding the pavement. With every bounding step better endowed women will find their chests bouncing along.
The only way to mitigate this is to find appropriate underwear, and sadly shopping for a sturdy sports bra, is not as much fun as shopping for attractive lingerie. It is essential though. There isn’t a huge amount of research on the impact of running on breasts, but sports scientist Dr. Joanna Scurr produced a paper some years back (in which she refers to the bounce as ‘breast biomechanics’). It makes sobering reading to those of us with a DD+ size rack.
According to her research, a woman’s breasts move about 33 per cent in each dimension when walking (that’s about the same amount from side to side and up and down). Upping the speed to jogging or running, and the movement pattern changes – there’s now a massive 51 per cent up and down movement, and 22 per cent side to side.
All this movement leads to one conclusion: without proper support, the fragile ligaments holding the breasts up with become irreversibly stretched, which will lead to sagging. And it’s not just larger breasted women who will suffer from this: those with less up top should also wear supportive sports bras to reduce the risk of sagging.
When it comes down to what is considered ‘supportive’ the experts are split – and my own empirical evidence also contradicts received wisdom.
There are two main types of sports bra; the encapsulation bra, which has separate moulded cups, and the compression bra which flattens the breasts to the chest wall. While some experts say encapsulation works better because the breasts move independently, I find compression is more effective is making sure nothing bounces or aches. The longer line the better for keeping everything in the right place. As ever, proper fitting is absolutely critical. Another theoretically mitigating step is ensuring you have a decent intake of vitamin C (due to its collagen-boosting properties).
The right bra won’t necessarily stop sagging as a result of running. And there just isn’t enough research to even conclude that running is particularly problematic when it comes to this issue – and in any case, the research there is suggests that any kind of high impact exercise can have an effect. Additionally, weight changes, gravity, and the irrepressible force of time will all play their part in the sagging process.
The conclusion? You may as well keep hitting the tarmac (trail, or treadmill) assuming you can find appropriate underwear that keeps you comfortable.