Dr Deirdre McGhee Exercise and Breast Support Interview
The vast majority of Australian women wear ill-fitting bras when playing sport or exercising, often at considerable cost to their performance and in some cases, to their health.
And while many women recognise they have a problem, most choose not to consult professional bra-fitters - for a variety of reasons, including modesty and the lack of availability of trained fitters where they purchase their bras.
But now there is a solution to the problem.
Sports Medicine Australia and the Breast Research Australia (BRA) team in the University of Wollongong's Biomechanics Research Laboratory, which has pioneered sports bra research in Australia, have combined to produce a free do-it-yourself guide to bra selection for sport and exercise.
Called simply Exercise and Breast Support, the brochure is a guide to understanding breast support during physical activity and how to determine whether your bra is fitted correctly.
The brochure provides easy to follow explanations on why correct bra fit and support is important for women of all ages when they play sport or exercise, as well as information about the potential for ill-fitting bras to contribute to neck, back and arm pain, especially in women with large breasts.
It contains a practical table that helps women make the right choice of bra based on age, bra cup size and the type of physical activity being undertaken. It contains advice on the type of bands, straps, cup, underwire and material, three easy steps to correct bra fit and a bra fit checklist.
BRA team researcher Dr Deirdre McGhee said the information in the brochure was prepared from evidence-based research, and would be a valuable guide for women of all ages.
"One of our recent studies found that 88 percent of female adolescents wore a bra during sport that didn't fit properly, while 85 percent failed a simple knowledge test on bras and bra fit," Dr McGhee said. "At the same time the vast majority of women, 75 percent in the younger age group and 67 percent among older women, do not choose to use the bra-fitting services that some bra retailers provide.
"So clearly there is a problem, and we are delighted that Sports Medicine Australia has partnered with us to produce this brochure, which we feel will be a great help to women who want to be active - whether it is very physical activities like playing hockey, netball, football, jogging or gym workouts, or more passive activities like walking."
BRA Team Leader Professor Julie Steele said the women would be able to use the brochure "knowing we're not trying to sell any particular brand of bra, so they can choose whatever they want without feeling under any pressure".
"We're greatly indebted to Sports Medicine Australia for funding this brochure, which is the first of its kind in Australia," she said.
Sports Medicine Australia said it was delighted to have partnered with the University of Wollongong in the development of the Exercise and Breast Support fact sheet to promote the importance of exercise for women.
"The benefits of exercise have no doubt been extensively documented. By encouraging and empowering women with the information relevant to ensure correct bra fit, the fact sheet seeks to break down one of the barriers confronting women when exercising," said Sports Medicine Australia's spokesperson Amanda Boshier.
"By gaining correct breast support and correct bra fit while exercising, women can exercise more freely, develop optimal health and set a path to a healthy future, avoiding many health problems commonly linked to inactivity," she said.
Sports Medicine Australia will distribute the brochures throughout Australia, through the fitness industry, sports clubs, coaches and trainers, doctors and allied health professionals. It is available to download at sma.org.au
Interview with Dr Deirdre McGheeQuestion:
How does wearing ill-fitting bras affect women in the short and long term?Dr Deirdre McGhee
: In the short term wearing ill-fitting bras create a barrier for women to be involved in physical activity in creating breast discomfort during exercise and causing embarrassment due to excessive breast movement.
Women become inactive due to the breast discomfort and embarrassment during exercise. Girls have the same level of activity as boys although with puberty girls begin to drop off and then often they drop off again in adulthood. Females are less physically active than males and breast support is one barrier of many barriers as to why women are not as physically active. Breast support as a barrier can be easily solved through education. Question:
What inspired the creation of the Exercise and Breast Support pamphlet?Dr Deirdre McGhee
: The need for education in regards to breast support and encouraging women to become physically active.
Many bra manufacturers will say "you're more likely to have saggy breasts as you age, if you don't support them properly" although there is no scientific research or evidence to support that. Theoretically biomechanical theory suggests that if you keep stretching the supports for the breast which is the skin and fine ligaments within them maybe they will sag more but that is a theoretical debate, there is no evidence.
There is research evidence to prove that women complain of breast discomfort when they exercise, particularly large breasted women and that deters them from being physically active. Young girls, in particular, state that they are embarrassed at how their breasts look and bounce up and down during exercise and that becomes a deterrent to being active.Question:
Can you talk about what is in the Exercise and Breast Support pamphlet?Dr Deirdre McGhee
: We made a booklet in 2008 and that was titled Sports Bra Fitness and it included education about your breasts, different types of bras, how to tell if a bra is fitting you and if it is supportive enough and how to care for your bras.
The Exercise and Breast Support pamphlet that we have just made is a very short version of Sports Bra Fitness. Exercise and Breast Support has pictures and it guides you simply in four steps how to choose a bra to wear during physical activity considering your age, bra size and type of activity you want to do. Then, it goes through how to put the bra on and how to place yourself into the bra and from there how to tell if the bra fits you and if it is supportive enough.
Exercise and Breast Support allows girls and women to independently use a bra that is supportive enough and to fit themselves.
Exercise and Breast Support is downloadable from www.sma.org.auQuestion:
How was the brochure put together?Dr Deirdre McGhee
: Exercise and Breast Support is free as Sports Medicine Australia funded it and everything that is written in the pamphlet is evidence based. Breast Research Australia (BRA) is a part of the University of Wollongong's Biomechanics Research Laboratory and we have been doing research in Breast Health (bra fit and breast support) for the past fifteen years and the pamphlet is an accumulation of a lot of studies that we have done where we have found how the breasts move when women are exercising. We have followed girls around on the field in a competition to observe what bras they are wearing and if they fit; we found it's dreadful.
We bought women into our lab where we had made a 'fake' shop and asked women to choose their size out of one style of bra (with every size possible to choose from) and 66% got it wrong, when they had one bra to choose from and 85% of women were wearing bras that didn't fit.
The pamphlet is free to download because Sports Medicine Australia is an educational body aiming to keep females active and as part of that aim they have a whole series of Women in Sport factsheets and this pamphlet is one of those sheets.
Breast Research Australia is a research and educational body that is independent of any bra company, we are not trying to sell anything. Sports Medicine Australia is completely independent from any manufacture. The aim for Breast Research Australia and Sports Medicine Australia is to educate which is why everything written in Exercise and Breast Support is based on research.