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If you’re an active woman with a larger bust, you’ve probably complained about insufficient sports bras at one point or another—or maybe you’ve given up on intense exercise entirely because of discomfort related to your breast size. If so, you’re not alone.
There have been few studies on just how much bust size affects women’s willingness to get active, but new research from the University of Wollongong in Australia found that breast size might play a significant part in women’s workout habits, from how frequently they get their sweat on to how vigorously they exercise.
There’s no denying that breasts of all sizes move around when we run, jump, or do pretty much anything, for that matter. And while sports bras help dampen that movement, they rarely stop it entirely. As all too many active women know, that can lead to some serious soreness during and after workouts.
The New York Times reported that there have been a few studies in the past regarding that exercise-related soreness, but not much research has been done to see how breast size impacts women’s decisions to work out or the style of exercise they favor.
The new study, published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sports, asked 355 healthy women between 18 and 75 to complete questionnaires about their exercise habits. Another questionnaire asked how their bust size had impacted the ways they exercised. Researchers then measured the volume of each woman’s breasts with three-dimensional scanning and categorized them as small, medium, large, or hypertrophic (very large).
Researchers found that the larger women’s breasts were, the less they took part in physical activity—especially vigorous exercise. Many of the women with larger breasts also felt that their breast size made it more difficult to do any exercise, including low-impact activities like walking or swimming.
Even taking age and BMI—two factors that also impact exercise habits—into consideration, the results were the same. For example, among overweight women with small breasts and average-weight women with large breasts, the effect on exercise was the same. Women with larger busts, regardless of BMI, exercised less than smaller-busted women and were likely to feel that their breasts affected their ability to take part in physical activities.
The findings aren’t exactly shocking, but confirm what many women have always known about bust size and physical activity. The good news is that the study authors have developed a free app to help women find out what their ideal bra needs are based on their bust sizes and exercise preferences. Of course, you’ll have to convert the Australian sizing to figure yours out.