Face masks have been an important part of basic guidelines for the prevention of coronavirus infection since the start of the global health crisis. However, a number of people have raised certain questions and concerns regarding the instructions, including the potential negative effects of exercising with a face mask on breathing and lung health.
As the second wave of coronavirus has started globally, nearly all countries have once again mandated face masks. In fact, some states, including Italy have also made it mandatory to wear face-covering in outdoor spaces in order to reduce the risk of transmission as much as possible.
Consequently, a number of people are following the instruction and wearing a mask whenever possible. At the same time, others are not taking the practice as seriously.
According to experts, people finding it difficult to take the simplest of preventive measures such as going out with a mask is a sign of pandemic fatigue. Since the pandemic is going on for more than half a year now, it is normal to be tired of the constant restrictions.
As a result, most are just choosing to neglect the guidelines or finding excuses to not do so. For instance, there are reported of people feeling ‘uncomfortable’ while wearing a mask during physical activities. Others state that they are concerned about their mask causing breathing difficulties.
Back in the months of summer, a similar concern was that face coverings can increase the chances of getting heatstroke. However, none of these claims have any scientific backing till now. In fact, two new studies actually show that exercising with a face mask does not cause any negative effects on the lungs or make breathing difficult in healthy people.
The first study, whose findings appear in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, examined the effects of wearing three different types of masks on sixteen male athletes and reported no problems in breathing.
The participants were tested without a mask, with a common surgical mask, and with a medical-grade N95 mask. The only concern was that N95 masks a little higher levels of carbon dioxide in the blood of the athletes.
Health agencies have stated that N95 specialized masks should only be worn by specific people, primarily those who are working in healthcare. Although they may cause any big issue during exercise, it is better to go for a surgical mask.
The second study, which appears in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, also looked at fourteen men and women exercising without a mask, with a fabric mask, and a surgical mask. The findings showed no significant difference.
However, it should be noted that both studies looked at healthy individuals. For people with pre-existing medical issues and lung disease, it is better to consult a doctor and discuss before doing any kind of exercise in general.
Another helpful tip is that always choose a comfortable mask such as the easily available fabric masks which can provide sufficient protection and are less likely to cause irritation.