London - Never mind being too tired or too busy – it seems many women are put off sport simply because they cannot find a suitable bra.

Almost one in five British women said they suffered pain or embarrassment caused by their breasts when exercising.

This discomfort was a bigger deterrent than the cost of exercise, lack of access to facilities or not having anyone to exercise with – and many blamed the problem on being unable to find the right sports bra.

Researchers at the University of Portsmouth, who carried out the survey, urged women to get their sports bras professionally fitted and said schools should educate girls about the importance of wearing them.

It follows a call from the head of Sport England for schools to put hairdryers in changing rooms to prevent image-conscious girls being put off PE.

Latest figures show girls in the UK are the fattest in Europe, with almost a third of under-20s classed as overweight or obese. They are also among the least active, with only six percent doing the recommended five sessions of exercise a week, and there are fears they will become the first generation to die at an earlier age than their parents.

Previous research has shown more women wear a fashion bra when exercising than a sports bra, which can provide extra support and limit embarrassing and uncomfortable movement.

In the latest study, some 239 women aged 18 to 64 answered dozens of questions about their exercise habits, including how much sport they did and what put them off taking part.

Lack of energy or motivation was the top reason, followed by lack of time and then health issues. But concerns about breasts, including pain and embarrassment, came in at fourth place, ahead of cost issues and lack of facilities.

In all, 17 percent of the women surveyed said problems caused by their breasts put them off sport, the Journal of Physical Activity and Health reports.

Researcher Emma Burnett said something as simple as a well-fitting sports bra could lead to women doing more exercise.

She added: “We had plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest breasts are a barrier to exercise but this is the first study to provide evidence that they are affecting women’s participation in sport.” - Daily Mail