Study explores how support wear may impact breathing

Group photo A current study in the Department of Communication Disorders is researching how women’s support wear may affect their breathing. Conducting this research are a group of undergraduates who became interested in the subject matter when Associate Professor Mary Sandage introduced the idea to their class. 

“Dr. Sandage said she was interested in researching how different levels of chest compression could affect pulmonary function because someone mentioned she couldn’t breathe as well when she was wearing a sports bra,” Kyra Moyer said. Moyer is one of the five undergraduates conducting the study. The concept appealed to the group because they had similar experiences and collectively wondered if it was a reality, or just a perception, so they volunteered to perform the research for the study and began searching for what other studies were published on the subject. 

“We all took time researching scientific journals and we found that there really isn't much published evidence about this subject, which motivated us even more,” Moyer said. 

The group consists of Kyra Moyer, Marina Gurmendi, Kylie Sandlin, Kennedy Williams, and Kelsey Anderson.

“I was definitely curious about this one because being involved in high school sports and competitive dance, I remember a lot of my teammates always complaining and yanking on our sports bras and being like ‘We can't breathe,’ after a workout,” Marina Gurmendi said.  

After receiving the proper training, the group began recruiting volunteers for their study. So far, they have tested 20 volunteers. The volunteers arrive at the clinic wearing a variety of supportive chest garments and are then tested on the spirometer, which calculates the volume they are exhaling while wearing (or not wearing) the items. The data then appears on the screen and is recorded.  Each volunteer is tested three times — once with a bra, once with sports bra, and once with no garment. 

So far, the group has seen trends that sports bras have had greater effect and constriction for the test subjects, with no bra being less constriction. “That's what I've seen, trend-wise when we've been putting in the data. I've noticed that,” Gurmendi said. Once data has been collected on thirty participants, statistical analysis will be conducted to determine if the differences are significant.

Ultimately, the group wants to share their results with the general public and submit a manuscript to a scientific journal. 

“I really want more information about the things that I put on my body and what that effect might have. Our long term goal is hoping companies will use this data when they engineer workout materials, just to have more information to go off of when they're thinking about the average woman and what they should do to engineer something that will adhere better to our bodies,” Gurmendi said. 

Of their experience thus far, the group said that working with Dr. Sandage and her graduate students, Michaela Allsup and Grace McKinnon, has been beneficial. 

“Conducting this study and learning these research skills is so valuable, especially going on to grad school and just knowing how to do this. It's been nice to have a working-knowledge of this before we actually get into grad school,” Kylie Sandlin said. 

Written by Vicky Santos

Last Updated: December 10, 2018