It appears that for large parts of the country – and large parts of the world – face masks and covering are here to stay for at least the foreseeable future. Masks are worn to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus by keeping germs from spreading from person to person. This is especially important when people are exercising – and even more so if you are in a gym or another enclosed space – but it is also important to know just how wearing a mask will affect your exercise routine.
When looking for guidance on masks and exercise it is important to know that much of the research is in its formative stages. We have never been put into this position as a community before, so knowing what to do – such as what type of mask to wear, how often it should be changed, and so on – are still questions without definitive answers at this point.
According to a New York Times article by Janet Brody – among a host of other vital research pieces – there is growing evidence that wearing a mask does affect your breathing to some degree. This shouldn’t really be news to anyone who has worn a mask as it is pretty obvious that it is more difficult to breathe as effectively with a mask on.
This has implications for mask wearing when trying to get in your daily exercise. The British Journal of Sports medicine published a piece this month noting that wearing a mask to exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort”. This means that according to the same piece, exercise must be planned and thought out in advance to make sure that you are personally “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.”
These ideas and concepts will obviously vary from person to person and situation to situation. Someone living in a remote and rural area will likely be able to go on a jog through their region with a mask in their pocket and never have to bring it out because of how few people are around. Someone trying to go to the gym in a densely populated neighborhood, however, will need to be masked up the entire time they are at the facility and their need for exercise vs. mask discomfort would be something that would be a real push/pull factor towards working out at all.
One item to note from early research is that masks appear to alter the heart rate of a person exercising. The president and chief science office of the American Council on Exercise, Cedric X. Bryant, notes that wearing a mask seems to increase the heart rate of the wearer by eight to 10 beats per minute. This is with exercise done at the same level of intensity to doing so without a mask. This rate may even increase as intensity increases and the result could be a lightheaded feeling and a quicker level of fatigue then when a mask is not present.
One way to counter this could be to make sure that you have the right mask to work out in. Any type of paper mask should immediately be discarded as these become wet quickly and will have limited to no effectiveness shortly into your workout program. Cloth masks are better, but try to avoid the thicker versions of these masks with more than two layers of fabric as they will cause you to overheat quickly. Neck gaiters are worse at controlling the spread (but better than nothing) and these will be lighter around the face than cloth.
It is also worth watching the development of new mask technologies. The likes of Nike, Adidas, and Under Armor are all putting funding into mask research to come up with masks for athletes and workouts. Choosing the right mask is important to keep everyone safe, but it doesn’t have to be at the expense of your own health.
Article by Vital Guidance