Like many women, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with my bra. I bought my first padded bra at 13 and tried push-up bras after nursing three kids, but found them too uncomfortable to wear for very long. Sports bras and camisoles are by far the most comfortable, but they’re also the least attractive.
A growing number of women, though, are simply opting out—a throwback to the bra-burning days of the ‘60s. And one French researcher says that could be providing them with health benefits.
In results from a 15-year study that’s not yet published, sports science researcher Jean-Denis Rouillon, from the University of Besançon in eastern France, found that bras don’t provide any upsides in terms of reducing breast sagging or back pain and may actually lead to breast sagging by restricting the development of pectoral muscles.
Using a slide rule and caliper, he and his colleagues measured changes in the breasts of 330 women ages 18 to 35, many of whom decided to stop wearing bras over the duration of the study; those who went bra-less experienced a 7 millimeter—or one-third of an inch—lift in their nipples each year they didn’t wear a bra. Some also experienced a reduction in back pain.
“Medically, physiologically, anatomically – breasts gain no benefit from being denied gravity. On the contrary, they get saggier with a bra,” Professor Rouillon told France Info radio.
He did, however, emphasize that these were preliminary results that need to be confirmed with larger studies involving thousands of women, including those over age 40.
What’s more, many women wear bras for other reasons beyond the long-term appearance of their breasts—comfort and a better fit under their clothes. And most of us would be unable to exercise without a little support, which would be a real detriment to our health.
Women, what do you think? Are you tempted to go braless (at least sometimes) based on this study? Men, do you care whether women wear them?
Deborah Kotz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.