Wearing a Mask Won’t Ruin Your Workout

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay reporter

TUESDAY, March 9, 2021 (HealthDay News) – You’re about to get on an exercise bike and peddle your heart out, but will wearing a face mask make it harder for you to breathe while you train?

Not according to new research which suggests healthy people can safely wear a face mask while exercising vigorously.

Scientists assessed the breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen levels of 12 volunteers as they exercised on an exercise bike while wearing and without a mask. There were six women and six men, an average of 40 years old. None had any health problems.

There were some minor differences in some measurements when participants wore or did not wear a mask, but no indication of a health risk, according to the study published on March 8 in the European Respiratory Journal.

The results suggest that it is safe for healthy people to wear masks during intense exercise, said study author Elisabetta Salvioni, from Centro Cardiologico Monzino, IRCCS, in Milan, Italy.

“We know that the main route of transmission of the coronavirus is via droplets in the breath and it is possible that breathing harder during exercise could facilitate transmission, especially indoors. Research suggests that wearing a mask may help prevent the spread of the disease, but there is no clear evidence of the safety of wearing masks during vigorous exercise, ”Salvioni said in a press release from the European Lung Foundation.

While wearing a face mask, participants had an average reduction of about 10% in their ability to perform aerobic exercise, possibly because it was slightly more difficult for them to inhale and exhale through the masks, investigators noted.

According to study author Massimo Mapelli, also from Centro Cardiologico Monzino, “This reduction is modest and, most importantly, it does not suggest any risk for healthy people who exercise with a face mask, even when they are working at their greatest capacity. Waiting until more people are vaccinated against COIVD-19, this finding could have practical implications in daily life, for example, potentially making it safer to open indoor gyms. ”


However, Mapelli added: “We should not assume that the same is true for people with heart or lung disease. We need to do more research to investigate this issue.”

Sam Bayat is chair of the Clinical Respiratory Physiology, Exercise and Functional Imaging group of the European Respiratory Society. “While these results are preliminary and need to be confirmed with larger groups of people, they seem to suggest that face masks can also be safely worn for indoor sports and fitness activities, with a tolerable impact on performance, ”he said.

Bayat, from Grenoble University Hospital in France, did not participate in the study.

More information

The World Health Organization has more information on when and how to wear masks.

SOURCE: European Lung Foundation, press release, March 7, 2021

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