May 4, 2013 - In the days before the London Marathan last year, scientists from the Research Group in Breast Health at the University of Portsmouth in England approached female racers at the event's registration center and asked them to complete an anonymous questionnaire about their exercise habits and breast health.
Sore Breasts are a common expereince among women of all ages and sizes, athletes and non-athletes alike. But scientists had not examined whether and to what extent exercise contributes to breast pain and, conversely, whether and to what extent breast pain alters how women exercise.
So they surveyed almost 1,300 of the women registered for the race and learned, as their new study, published in Marh in the The British Journal of Sports Medicine, makes clear, that exercise does significantly impact breast pain and vice-versa.
Earlier motion-capture research by the Portsmouth scientists established that unsupported female breasts - that is, those not contained within a bra - oscillate as much as eight inches in space when a woman runs, and not just up and down, but also side to side, forward and backward.
Even when the volunteers wore a standard bra, the scientists found their breasts often continued to sway considerably during running. But whether this breast motion was linked to later soreness was unclear. Which is why the researchers now set out to examine the real-world consequences of being an active woman and having sore breasts. "It is an important quality of life issue for women," said Nicola Brown, a member of the Reserch Group in Breast Health at Portsmouth, a lecturer in exercise science at Saint Mary's University College in London and the lead author of the study.
Contrary to popular belief, a cross section of active women is what the registration roll of a major marathon conveniently provides. When the scientists analysed the surveys from these runners, they found that they had data about women with 56 different bra sizes, from AA cup to HH and chest-band sizes from 28 to 40 inches. The women ranged widely in body weight too, with the average being about 148 pounds.
But these active women were not immune from breast pain. More than a third reported that their breasts frequently were sore, although not necessarily because of exercise. Sore breasts most commonly were because of hormonal changes associated with the menstryal cycle, the runners reported.
Motherhood reduced the likelihood that a woman would report breast pain, perhaps, the authors speculate, because pregnacy and breast-feeding alter the composition of the breasts.
In aggregate, Dr brown said the results suggest that exercise related breast pain can compromise the quality and quantity of physical activity for many women. Of course, many of us might consider that a self evident finding - anecdotal evidence suggests that my friends and I complain all the time about how our breasts feel when we-re running. But this is the first study to formally examine and validate the issue.