Face masks have become commonplace in countries across the world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended the use of face masks in order to limit the spread of the virus so they have become a part of daily life, and look set to stay for the foreseeable future.
Some people have been exercising with masks on and many have asked the question is this safe?
There were reports back in May that two schoolboys died in China after taking part in PE examinations while wearing face masks, which brought the subject to a head.
And Lyndsay Bottoms, who specialises in Exercise and Health Physiology at the University of Hertfordshire believes exercising with a face mask on could cause some complications.
“As you move from moderate to heavy exercise, you may be re-breathing carbon dioxide, which can reduce cognitive function and increase breathing rate,” Bottoms wrote in The Conversation [https://theconversation.com/why-it-could-be-dangerous-to-exercise-with-a-face-mask-on-140277].
“There may also be less oxygen in the recycled air, which could imitate exercising at higher altitudes.”
Bottoms performed a test on a treadmill, running with and without a face mask, and found that when wearing the mask oxygen levels dropped to 17 per cent, which is the equivalent of training at 1500m above sea level.
Even WHO itself advises against the use of face masks when exercising [https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters], stating: “Sweat can make the mask become wet more quickly which makes it difficult to breathe and promotes the growth of microorganisms. The important preventive measure during exercise is to maintain physical distance of at least one meter from others.”
So although some experts claim most people can perform almost any exercise with a face mask on, there’s little reason to do so if you keep at a distance from others.
By taking other preventative measures, you’ll eliminate the discomfort that comes with breathing heavily into a mask and any risk factors involved. It’s also widely recognised that people with breathing difficulties or cardiovascular issues should not use a mask while exercising.