THE BLOG

Bounce: History of the Sports Bra

23/04/2015 18:03 BST | Updated 23/06/2015 10:59 BST

It's strange the journeys you end up going on as a freelance sports reporter and presenter. Earlier this year I was asked to host the Sports Business Innovation Awards at which a woman called Hinda Miller was to receive a LifeTime Achievement Award. I knew nothing about Hinda before this, but on this journey I've met and interviewed some fantastic people. Hinda is one of those amazing people.

Hinda Miller was the co founder of the first Sports Bra in 1977 - an invention considered to be as important as the invention of the Nike Waffle sole in terms of what it did to empower all women who wanted to be active. Canadian born Hinda was a runner, her friends were runners but their boobs were bouncing about all over the place and it hurt. They tried to hold them when running - they felt self conscious. They tried two bras - they bound them up but nothing worked. They were aware they might be damaging them too. They were intent on finding a solution.

Jokingly one of her friend's husbands put a jockstrap on his head and said 'what about a jockstrap for women'. That was their lightbulb moment. The prototype of the very first sports bra was two jockstraps sewn together by co founder Miller. They tested and developed it by watching each other run - one of them would run backwards - and see how much the boobs moved. Can you imagine what that must've been like? The prototype now sits proudly in the Smithsonian Museum.

Nowadays, the research is a lot more scientific. The University of Portsmouth has a Breast Health and Exercise Unit. Tests on breast movement are done by runners on a treadmill with markers around the relevant area to see how and where and how much the breast moves during exercise. It's a figure of eight movement by the way - and movement varies according to which sport you do. If you do horse riding, boy do you need a sports bra no matter the cup size.

I've learned a lot about boobs in the last four months. There are no muscles in that area. I thought wearing a sports bra would make the breast dependent and weaken them - but not so. There is no natural support and without support the Coopers Ligaments in the breasts are stretched. None of us want to have saggy breasts before our time and none of us want to be in discomfort when we're being active. If you've been exercising without one, how do you do it?

Studies also show that 60 percent of young girls have concerns about their breasts bouncing during exercise and that puts them off being active - not good. A sports bra is part of the solution.

Hinda and her colleagues sold the Jogbra as a package with trainers. They told the mainly male salespeople that if they could talk about nipples with a straight face, then they could sell what became known as the 'jogbra". It was life changing for many women.

Meeting and hearing Hinda Miller's story prompted me to find out more hence my trip to Portsmouth and the Breast Health Unit. Those researchers there are still incredulous about how little women know - how they just accept it as a problem and don't think there is a solution, despite experiencing breast pain. One runner even asked if at some point there might be a sports bra without straps so that there would be no tan lines on her shoulders. Never mind the tan what about the boobs?!

It's not the case with our elite athletes - I talked to Scottish international footballer Gemma Faye, GB javelin champion Goldie Sayers, World Champion swimmer Hannah Miley and gymnast Beth Tweddle. All would not leave home without their sports bra. It's the first item they put in their sports bag.

I go to Zumba classes every week and worryingly I now find myself looking at other women's boobs to see if they have the right support. I need to work up the courage to say something to one or two because it must be SO uncomfortable.

Advice on buying a sports bra? Get it fitted properly and renew it regularly. Don't wash it 'til it's saggy and dead. Do the bounce test in the changing room before you buy. There are more feminine ones that give you a bit of shape too. I'm not keen on the mono boob look.

A good pair of running shoes is over a hundred pounds. So, if you're going to spend that on your feet - why not spend £35 on your breasts. Surely, ladies, our breasts deserve that?

Tune into 'Bounce: The story of the Sports Bra" on BBC Radio 5 Live, 8pm, Thursday 23 April