During this mass mandatory mask-wearing time period we have entered, some gyms are requiring wearing a face mask in their facilities. Gyms have had a hard time opening back up in many regions due to its perceived threat of being a higher risk for spreading covid because people produce more droplets with the force of their breathing while working out.
Everyone is trying to do their part in helping the spread of infection by wearing their masks but what does that mean for the gym junkies. What type of risks, if any, are involved with wearing a mask while exercising? Let's Explore…
What happens when you exercise with a face mask on?
Masks make it harder to inhale the quantity and quality of air needed to perform at the highest levels. Exercising leads to faster and bigger breaths, so wearing a mask during exercise places a further strain on airflow.
When you work out hard, your muscles produce lactic acid, which causes that burning sensation. It is then converted to carbon dioxide and exhaled, but what happens when the carbon dioxide is trapped by the mask? As you move from more moderate to heavy exercise, you may be rebreathing carbon dioxide, which can reduce cognitive function and increase breathing rate.
There may also be less oxygen in the recycled air, which could imitate exercising at higher altitudes. So it is important we gain a better understanding of the limitations of heavy exercise with a facemask.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says people shouldn't wear masks while exercising because they may reduce one's ability to breathe comfortably.
"Sweat can make the mask become wet more quickly, which makes it difficult to breathe and promotes the growth of microorganisms," the WHO's guidance reads.
However, many experts say that if you'd prefer to keep your mask on the whole time while you work out, that there's no real danger, though it might not be comfortable at first. This statement may sound contradictory but it's all very subjective. Many factors are mostly related to individual needs and health.
How to work out wearing a mask
If it's your choice to wear a mask while exercising, there are a few things to consider to keep you safe:
Keep the intensity low to moderate to avoid overheating or having shortness of breath.
Change your mask once it starts to get sweaty.
Monitor if you get dizzy or lightheaded or feel tingling or numbness.
In conclusion, if you chose (or are forced) to wear a mask while exercising then the silver lining is that your lungs and cardiovascular system will get an extra workout because it is providing extra breathing resistance. The more you exercise with a face mask on, the more accustomed your body will become to the reduced flow of oxygen, and theoretically, should improve your endurance.