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The results showed a very clear trend: regardless of their overall Body Mass Index (BMI), women with larger breasts were more likely to feel that their breasts were interfering with exercise. This was important because naturally, women with higher BMI’s tend to have larger breasts — but this was not the underlying cause. The breasts themselves are producing discomfort.

Participants with large breasts also participated in less vigorous-intensity physical activity compared to participants with small and with medium breasts.

“Breast size should be acknowledged as a potential barrier to women participating in physical activity,” researchers conclude.

It’s a fairly small sample size and results should be replicated with a larger cohort, but the study paints a pretty compelling picture and presents a clear trend.

There’s also a positive side to this story: sports bras, which offer support and stability, can reduce discomfort. By making women more aware of this issue and the potential ways to address this, matters can be improved.

For instance, women with very large breasts might need to use two bras simultaneously to gain enough support. Some physical activities (like swimming) also produce much less discomfort, and women with large breasts should be encouraged to focus on these activities.

Surprisingly many women are also wearing the wrong bra size, which could further accentuate the problem. Lead author Celeste Coltman, now an assistant professor at the University of Canberra in Australia Coltman and her collaborators, Julie Steele and Deirdre McGhee, have also developed a free app to help active women assess their breast size and bra needs.

Men also have their own anatomical woes when it comes to exercising. Bicycles can cause genital soreness and pain, and the occasional rampant ball can also cause a lot of genital pain — but that doesn’t reduce men’s willingness to exercise.

The study “Does breast size affect how women participate in physical activity?” has been published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. DOI: