What is a Sports Bra?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A sports bra is a protective undergarment designed for women to wear during athletic exercise. In addition to providing support for the breasts, it also protects them while the woman exercises. Women with all chest measurements find that a sports bra makes exercising much more comfortable, and for women with larger breasts, a sports bra can greatly increase the freedom of movement needed to exercise. Many department and sports stores carry sports bras designed for various activities and bodies.

A sports bra is often worn during jogging.
A sports bra is often worn during jogging.

In general, a sports bra is designed as a one size garment, meaning that there are no straps to adjust. Therefore, it is crucial to find one which fits properly. Many women do not know their actual bra size, or may be unaware of changes in bra size, and it can help to ask a salesperson for help. A salesperson may also be able to make recommendations for specific athletic activity, and brands which may fit better or be more comfortable on a specific figure.

Joggers and runners often wear sports bras and other apparel made from fabric that wicks perspiration away from the body.
Joggers and runners often wear sports bras and other apparel made from fabric that wicks perspiration away from the body.

A sports bra should fit snugly on the chest without feeling restrictive, and the straps should all lie flat and even against the body, with no signs of strain and tugging. Women with larger breasts often benefit from wearing a sports bra with straps which cross in the back, providing extra support. Women who wear underwire bras on a daily basis may also wish to wear underwire in their sports bras.

The fabrics used to make sports bras are usually breathable, allowing the bra to wick moisture away from the body for comfort. In addition, the design usually eliminates seams on the inside of the bra, to eliminate chafing issues. It is important to follow the care directions for a sports bra to ensure that it will not change size or shape, and to replace a sports bra if it loses strength and elasticity. In general, a sports bra should be washed in cool water and hung to dry, and some bras may require hand washing. If you are not clear about the care instructions, ask a salesperson.

In addition to coming in the form of a standalone bra, some sports bras are incorporated into tank tops and other workout wear. These tanks are usually very figure hugging, and are generally designed with smaller figured women in mind. For a women with smaller breasts, a sports bra and tank top combination can be quite comfortable, especially in hot weather, when one wants to wear as few layers as possible while adhering to modesty standards.

A sports bra should fit snugly on the chest without feeling restrictive.
A sports bra should fit snugly on the chest without feeling restrictive.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@croydon - I admire anyone who goes for regular exercise, but especially people who have more weight on them because I know how embarrassing it can be.

Don't worry about people looking at you. Get the best sports bra you can for your health, of course, but don't do it just to reduce the number of people looking at you. If they are looking for any other reason than they think you are a strong person, then who cares about their opinions anyway?


@pastanaga - I know it seems a bit shallow, but to me it's not completely about comfort or health. I need to have a decent sports bra because otherwise I feel like people stare at me too much.

I have a chest that is larger than average and I really like going for a regular run. But, for a while it was difficult to drum up any kind of enthusiasm, just because people would stare at me every time I went for a run.

Having a decent running sports bra can help to reduce that. It's more comfortable as well, but I love it because it cuts down jiggle and that makes me feel more confident.


It's absolutely crucial to have a well fitting sports bra, especially if you have a larger figure, so you should definitely go and get fitted for one rather than trying to negotiate the sizes by yourself. The problem is that often between brands or styles, the sizes aren't quite the same, so you really need an expert to help you find one that fits really well.

You can end up tearing your ligaments or getting bruises if you don't make sure that you are well supported before doing any exercise. One of my friends was all excited to start at her gym and ended up being so sore the next day that she quit before she even had a chance to improve her health.

Find the right kind of high impact sports bra and you won't have to worry about that kind of thing.

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