It is not easy to exercise while wearing a mask. While the science behind the benefits of wearing a mask for limiting the spread of coronavirus is clear, the act of wearing one has become politicised in some parts of the world. Whatever fence you sit on, to wear a mask or not, I want to encourage you all to keep on exercising.
The benefits of exercise are hopefully very clear and widely accepted. Here are just some of the reasons to exercise. It is good for managing your weight, strengthening muscles and bones, improving heart health, reducing the risk of many diseases, improving quality of sleep, improving mood, and it gets you out of the house. Do you need any more reasons?
Some people have stopped or significantly reduced the amount of exercise they are doing. Some of the restrictions in place make it hard to exercise, with gyms closed, community sports cancelled and curfews in place. However, it is important that people continue to exercise. There are enough people with coronavirus-related health issues in the community, we don’t need to add the effects of lack of exercise. Also, if by chance you catch COVID-19, being fitter and healthier with help your immune system fight the virus.
So make sure you exercise, and wear a mask if you are asked to by the authorities, and are able to. In some places, it is recommended to wear a mask whenever you are outdoors. Some regulations state that you have to wear them while exercising, while others allow that exception. If you are not wearing a mask, at least practice good social distancing, this works too.
The potential problem of exercising with facemasks is that the face covering could decrease airflow, making it slightly harder to breathe and to get enough oxygen. Also, the mask could trap carbon dioxide and make you feel unwell.
However, a study by Shaw et al. 2020, is one of many which have found that wearing face masks has no effect on athletic performance. Any decrease in airflow and CO2 trapping, while possibly making it uncomfortable, is not going to slow you down.
Individuals may differ in their response, and anyone with asthma or breathing issues should be careful. It is important to take it easy, particularly at first, and take breaks when you need to. Any exercise is better than none at all.
Just make sure you still exercise.
- Shaw K, Butcher S, Ko J, Zello GA, Chilibeck PD. Wearing of Cloth or Disposable Surgical Face Masks has no Effect on Vigorous Exercise Performance in Healthy Individuals. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2020; 17(21):8110.
- Chandrasekaran B, Fernandes S. “Exercise with facemask; Are we handling a devil’s sword?” – A physiological hypothesis. Med Hypotheses. 2020;144:110002.