As someone who went through puberty with lightning speed—I'm talking from size A cup to a D cup the summer after my freshman year of high school—I can understand, and certainly empathize with, teen girls struggling with body changes. Despite my seemingly overnight developments, I was able to still pursue my love of athleticism, becoming a a two-sport athlete in high school: a striker on the soccer team in the fall, a (not-fast) track runner in the spring.
However, new research published in The Journal of Adolescent Health shows that girls tend to start dropping out of sports and skipping gym classes around the onset of puberty for an all-too-common reason: developing breasts, and girls' attitudes about them. (One woman shares: "How I Learned to Love Working Out As a Busty Girl."
In the study, 2,089 English schoolgirls ages 11 to 18 were surveyed by researchers from the University of Portsmouth in England. What they found was less than shocking to me, but perhaps more so to everyone else: Approximately 75 percent of the subjects cited at least one breast-related concern regarding exercise and sports. Think: They thought their breasts were too big or too small, too bouncy or bound too tightly in an ill-fitting bra, were self-conscious to get undressed in a locker room and likewise self-conscious to exercise with abandon. (It's not just teens; fear of being judged is the number one reason women skip the gym.)
Clearly, there's a need for education when it comes to boobs, puberty, and sports. A whopping 90 percent of the girls in the study said they wanted to know more about breasts in general, and nearly half wanted to know about sports bras and breasts specifically with respect to physical activity. A mere 10 percent reported having a sports bra that fits—unacceptable in any everyday athlete's book.
So let's start talking about our boobs more, ladies. Girls shouldn't feel ashamed of their breasts, big or small. And, of course, they should always be supported—both breasts and the girls who have them.