Thankfully, the number of cases suffering from the global pandemic of coronavirus is going down in different parts of the world. With this decrease in number, speculations are being made among the masses about the obligatory precautions that have been in place since the beginning of the spread of this virus. Face masks, social distancing, temperature checking, sanitizing, etc were conditions made necessary to follow by the governments around the world. Now that the situation has been brought into control to some degree, the preventive measures are being thought upon as well.
With the lockdown situation almost over in most countries, workplaces and businesses are being reopened. This includes offices, malls, gyms, and even restaurants. Now there’s a lot of talk about how there is a new normal of conduct for every place. Among other discussions, there is a whole debate on if people should be wearing face masks while working out or not. There are contradicting opinions on this one with multiple perspectives and arguments in support and disapproval. However, each side has its own reasons and logic for their say. At the end of the day, the best we can do is to read up on it and follow the debate rationally.
What is the opinion of experts on this?
According to the World Health Organization, people should not cover their faces with a mask while exercising because it will cause difficulty in breathing comfortably for them. It can also lead to oxygen deficiency which can be problematic in various ways. Another reason for saying no to face masks while exercising is that there is a lot of sweating during exercising which can result in making your mask wet or damp. This dampness creates a more inviting habitat for microorganisms to grow as well as make breathing difficult. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a mask at places where maintaining the required social distance is not possible. They suggest wearing a cloth mask and not surgical masks or N-95 respirators which should both be reserved for health care workers.
People with respiratory or cardiovascular diseases
President of The Association of Surgeons of India, Dr. P. Raghu Ram, says that covering the face during a workout session can cause hyperventilation and potentially reduce brain function especially in people who suffer from respiratory diseases like asthma, bronchitis, or COPD. Wearing a mask while exercising can restrict the airflow with the mask acting as a barrier. That consequently lowers the oxygen level in the re-circulated air. Moreover, exhaled carbon dioxide gets trapped inside the mask which is then inhaled by the mask wearer. This also results in hyperventilation or excessive breathing and reduced brain function. This condition is sometimes manifested in confusion and loss of consciousness as well.
It is a fact known quite well that heart rate increases during regular exercise. But wearing a mask during exercise causes a further increase in heart rate by multiple times. This can cause dehydration, dizziness, or lightheadedness and can cause harmful cardiac effects. This may also affect your exercise performance like running, cycling, or any other type of cardio training. You will have a hard time catching your breath and will be fatigued faster than usual. Some people may advise not to exerting yourself as usual then. Remove your mask and sit to have some rest.
Well this is not the case for Coach Alexis Tolentino as he regularly wears a mask while working out in public places, here is a demonstration video of Coach Alex teaching some warm up cardio for his Youtube subscribers.
Type of masks to wear while working out
Some exercisers prefer neck gaiters, also called as buffs. These neck gaiters are designed in a way that they can be pulled over your mouth and your nose but will remain open at the bottom so the flow of air may be increased. According to Dr. Van Rensburg, these masks are efficient for comfort but perhaps your infection control will be compromised since they are less effective with an opening to allow the passage of air. Also, surgical masks or N-95 masks should be avoided because they degrade on becoming wet.
However, in Awtsu Fitness Apparel we have created a non medical face mask specially designed to wear during workout sessions or when working out in public gyms that can help serve as an added layer of protection against the virus.
If you are someone who finds it manageable to exercise wearing a cloth mask, make sure you are carrying more than one. Dr. Byrant advises to carry extras of your preferred mask if you are exercising for more than about 30 minutes. This is because even breathable fabrics become drenched with sweat at this point so there will be a need for replacement. He also advises not to touch the front of the mask. This is because any viral particles that you may have come into contact with could have accumulated there so make sure you remove it safely and then pack or dispose of it with care.
It is important to listen to your body
It is also best to listen to your body and then do what suits you. If you feel that wearing a mask is putting extra strain on your body, put a stop to it. Some changes made in the type of exercise people used to go for has worked so you can do that too. Light exercises and taking a break every few minutes or each time you feel the need to catch your breath but even then, if you feel that your body cannot put up with the extra labor that comes with exercising while having your mouth and nose covered by a mask then it is better to not put yourself through it.
It is important to weigh and balance the benefits of wearing a mask during exercise versus the adverse effects it can have on your health. If you are working out at home, there is no need at all to wear a mask. But since there is no evidence-based information on the use of wearing masks while exercising, it is wise and we deem it best to not exercise in public places without wearing a mask or protect yourself with Awtsu Fitness Apparel clothing face mask for added safety. Otherwise, by all means, happy masking!