The Influence of the Breast on Physical Activity Participation in Females

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health

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Emma Burnett
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Jenny White
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Joanna Scurr
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The importance of physical activity is well known.1 However, previous research suggests that breast movement during exercise can be painful, embarrassing, and anecdotally deter exercise participation.2,3 Therefore, this research investigates whether the breast influences physical activity participation.


Female respondents (n = 249) completed a breast health and physical activity survey assessing bras and bra fit, physical activity, breast pain, comments and improvements, breast history, and demographics.


Results found that the breast was a barrier to physical activity participation for 17% of women. “I can’t find the right sports bra” and “I am embarrassed by excessive breast movement” were the most influential breast related barriers to activity. Breast pain increased with vigorous activity and poor breast support. Breast health knowledge increased the use of a sports bra and levels of physical activity.


The breast was the fourth greatest barrier to physical activity, behind energy/motivation (first), time constraints (second), and health (third), despite its omission from previous physical activity literature. As 33% of women were not meeting physical activity guidelines, increasing breast health knowledge may reduce barriers to physical activity.

The authors are with the Dept of Sport and Exercise Science, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, United Kingdom.

Burnett ( is corresponding author.
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