Face Masks And Exercise

In spite of the consistency in the recommendation that people should wear face masks as a daily habit,  wearing a mask during conducting physical activities or exercise might potentially cause negative impacts to the body. Since a face mask usually covers the mouth and nose, wearing a face mask while exercising may limit ventilation and impair oxygen levels, causing breathing difficulties, shortness of breath and chest tightness. However, respiratory effects generated by wearing a mask vary among individuals, depending on personal conditions, intensity level of exercise and the types of masks.

  • Professional or amateur athletes: In general, athletes even who have a relatively high level of fitness should expect to experience fatigue faster when exercising with a face mask due to limited ventilation and reduced oxygen levels. However, athletes with regular training are prone to be more tolerant of wearing a mask while having moderate-intensity exercise. Performing high-intensity exercise might need increased ventilation if mask is worn during exercise. As a result, this might lead to breathing issues and impaired fitness level. A scientific-based attempt has been made to practically adapt face masks for professional athletes aiming at improving their physical fitness. Nonetheless, recent researches have indicated that wearing face mask during conducting a normal exercise does not enhance athletic performance. Instead, it helps strengthening the respiratory musculature by making it work harder, resulting in improved endurance capacity in well-trained athletes.
  • People who do not exercise regularly or the elderly: Wearing a face mask during exercise might increase the risk of breathing problems since the body is not familiar to limited ventilation, therefore the heart and lungs tend to work harder than usual, resulting in increased risks of life-threatening conditions e.g. sudden cardiac death or heart attack.

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