Wearing a facial covering or mask helps to reduce the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus. Presymptomatic and asymptomatic carriers can unknowingly spread the virus, so wearing a mask is a preventative measure. Since gyms recently reopened, researchers started to look at the side effects of facial coverings during exercise.
Gyms took preventative measures, including temperature checks upon entry, making sinks and lockers out of order, and deep cleaning throughout the day, as they welcomed gym-goers back. The decision to wear a mask during a workout is up to the individual. According to scientific research, the same facial covering that helps slow the spread of COVID-19 makes exercise worse.
An Example Of Why You Shouldn’t Wear A Mask During Your Workout:
A 26-year old man in China’s Wuhan city wound up in the hospital after he went for a jog while wearing a facial covering. The report stated that he ignored the fact that he experienced difficulty breathing during his jog. Because he hadn’t worked out in months due to the lockdown, he decided to push himself a little harder. He ran for six kilometers, instead of his regular three kilometers. Upon arriving home, he experienced chest pain and was immediately rushed to the hospital. The doctors concluded that one of his lungs collapsed as a result of engaging in intense cardiovascular exercise while wearing a mask.
What Sciences Says About Exercising With A Mask:
When you exercise, you breathe harder and faster than normal. Naturally, this worries people because this increases the risk of passing on the virus if you are a carrier. Scientists say that masks make it difficult to inhale the amount of air needed when exerting more energy. Wearing a mask, then, strains the airflow and prevents carbon dioxide from leaving the body.
When you engage in heavy exercise, especially weight lifting, running, interval training, or resistance training, muscles produce lactic acid, which causes that burning sensation. The lactic acid is converted to carbon dioxide, which the body eliminates via exhalation. The mask can actually trap carbon dioxide, so you begin to re-breathe carbon dioxide, which ultimately reduces cognitive function and breathing rate.
Growing Evidence That Wearing Masks Affect Breathing:
The British Journal of Sports Medicine published a commentary about face coverings restricting breathing and causing physical discomfort. Several scientists started to wear masks to conduct self experiments, since the pandemic prevents large-scale lab experiments. According to Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico, people can experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts if they don masks. Kravitz conducted a mini experiment with two student athletes. One ran without a mask and did not experience breathing difficulties. The other ran with a cloth mask and felt dizzy after a couple minutes.
Another test revealed that the concentration of oxygen reduced when running on a treadmill with a mask. At the site of the test, atmospheric oxygen was 21% at sea level. When running with the mask, atmospheric oxygen reduced to 19.5%, which equates to nearly 2,000 feet above sea level.
Masks Become Wet During Workouts:
More studies show that wearing a mask while exercising creates a moist environment underneath, especially when worn for long periods of time. This can increase the risk of acne or other facial rash due to increased presence of trapped microorganisms. If you plan on exercising with a mask on, please bring extra so that you can change the mask if it becomes wet.
Before people suggest wearing a facial covering during a workout session, more research is needed to ensure the safety of the athletic community.