For those who have returned to the gym or continued their outdoor exercises during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s often been debating if wearing a face mask can affect breathing during exercise.
As gyms across the country mandate mask-wearing inside facilities, a new study found that wearing a mask during a tough workout doesn’t actually do anything to harm your performance.
The study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, sought to find whether exercise performance is impaired by wearing a face mask.
Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan were interested in seeing whether masks can harm performance by limiting oxygen intake or not filtering air causing an increase in rebreathing carbon dioxide, two claims which have been made questioning mask-wearing at gyms.
However, researchers said this was not the case — wearing a mask in a gym is not only keeping yourself and everyone else safe, but it does not affect your workout.
“Our findings are of importance because they indicate that people can wear face masks during intense exercise with no detrimental effects on performance and minimal impact on blood and muscle oxygenation,” researchers said in a press release.
“This is important when fitness centers open up during COVID-19 since respiratory droplets may be propelled further with heavy breathing during vigorous exercise and because of reports of COVID-19 clusters in crowded enclosed exercise facilities.”
The study had 14 fitness goers do a brief warm-up exercise on a stationary bike that involved increased intensity and required participants to maintain a pedal rate. This exercise was completed three times by participants. Each exercise had participants either wear a surgical mask, a cloth face mask, and one routine that involved no mask at all.
In order to measure breathing, researchers had recorded blood oxygen levels and muscle oxygen levels of the participants through each test.
“Our study found no detrimental effect of wearing either a non-disposable cloth or disposal surgical face mask while exercising vigorously on exercise performance,” researchers said. “For healthy, active people, wearing a face mask during vigorous exercise has minimal effect on arterial or muscle oxygen levels and no effects on exercise performance.”
Masks have become part of the norm since the start of the pandemic back in March. For those going to the gym or regularly exercising outside, it is encouraged that masks are worn, especially if your workout is indoors.
Fitness guru Dannah Eve Bollig told Ladders that she preferred wearing masks produced by athletic-brand companies because the materials are more comfortable than wearing a surgical mask. You’ve probably seen a number of people exercising in masks by adidas or Under Armour.
As for navigating the gym with a mask, here’s what she advises:
“A few tips and tricks that I have found very helpful is to bring multiple masks with you so that if and when you get sweaty (a wet/sweaty mask can limit its effectiveness and make it more uncomfortable to breathe) you can safely replace your mask with a clean or dry one. Also, never touch your mask once you have it in place especially if you’ve been touching and using gym equipment as the more you do, the more you increase your chances of exposing yourself to the virus. Lastly, be sure to have a sanitizer on hand with the recommended alcohol content of at least 60% stated by the CDC and practice social distancing and good hygiene by washing your hands as much as possible.”