Older breast has less bounce

Debbie Risius

Miss Debbie Risius of the Research Group in Breast Health

Older women are less likely to experience vertical breast bounce when exercising than younger women, according to the surprise results of a study at the University of Portsmouth.

The study, the first to study breast movement in women aged from 45 to 65, also measured breast ptosis (sag) but found that the amount of sag did not have any bearing on the amount of breast movement.

Miss Debbie Risius, of the Research Group in Breast Health has presented her findings at the Royal Society of Medicine’s Helal and Harries prize meeting.

Debbie said: “I was surprised by these results which clearly show the more mature breast moves in a completely different way to a younger breast.

“The findings may indicate a need for a sports bra to be designed specifically for mature women.

“Specially designed bras may help support mature breasts more effectively and also encourage older women to exercise more regularly. Our earlier studies show older women are less likely to own a sports bra and less likely to take part in energetic exercise than young women.“

Debbie’s study looked at movement in the breast when subjects walked bare breasted on a treadmill for two minutes. Debbie initially thought that older women would experience more breast movement, and therefore associated breast pain as a result of exercising, than younger women.

However the study actually found that older women experience less vertical movement than younger women. Debbie suggests this is due to older breast tissue being less elastic, and therefore having less bounce than younger tissue.

Debbie said: “If you imagine an elastic band, when it is new it is very springy and flexible, and when it is stretched it bounces back with a lot of energy. An older elastic band is less flexible, and is not as springy when it is stretched. This is similar to the differences between younger and older breast tissue.”

Twelve participants aged between 45 and 65 years were compared with twelve women aged between 18 and 25 years. All were a size 34D.

The University of Portsmouth has been studying breast biomechanics since 2005. This new research contributes to a large existing body of work carried out by the Research Group in Breast Health.

Previous research has found that breasts bounce to maximum levels of 21cm during exercise. During walking, a woman’s breasts move the same amount in and out, up and down and from side to side (33 per cent in each direction). But when a woman starts to jog or run movement is split: 51 per cent of movement is up and down; 22 per cent side to side and 27 per cent in and out. The overall pattern of the movement is a figure of eight. It is estimated that more than 50 per cent of women experience breast pain when exercising.

For more information on the research conducted by the Research Group in Breast Health please refer to our website: www.port.ac.uk/breastresearch

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