A team of researchers have concluded that wearing a facemask while exercising does not impair the functioning of the lungs.
The scientists reviewed all scientific data ever published that looked into the physiological responses to physical activity in all kinds of facemasks.
There had been studies looking at several factors, including blood flow to the brain, arterial blood gases and effects on muscle fatigue
For healthy people of all ages, there was a minimal effect on all of the outcomes assessed, regardless of age or intensity and duration of the exercise.
The study's first author Susan Hopkins, professor of medicine and radiology at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine said: "There might be a perceived greater effort with activity, but the effects of wearing a mask on the work of breathing, on gases like oxygen and CO2 in blood or other physiological parameters are small, often too small to be detected.
"There's also no evidence to support any differences by sex or age in physiological responses to exercise while wearing a facemask."
The study found that only those with severe cardiopulmonary disease could experience difficulty breathing or minor changes in blood gasses which could affect their ability to exercise.
"In such cases, these individuals might feel too uncomfortable to exercise, and that should be discussed with their doctor," Hopkins added. "However, the fact that these individuals are at great risk should they contract COVID-19 must also be considered."
The purpose of masks is, of course, to limit the spread of coronavirus through respiratory droplets, but they can be particularly uncomfortable to use when breathing heavily - something that Hopkins and her team have noted.
"There can be tiny increases in breathing resistance,” she said. “You may re-inhale warmer, slightly enriched CO2 air. And if you're exercising, the mask can cause your face to become hot and sweaty.
"But these are sensory perceptions. They do not impact cardiopulmonary function in healthy people. So while dyspnea (the medical term for shortness of breath) might be increased with a mask, you have to weigh that against the reduced risk of contracting COVID-19, knowing that the physiology is essentially unchanged."
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