Coach and manager of Body Staff Gym fitness center Mabchour Mourad tests a machine on June 1, 2020, in Artigues-pres-Bordeaux, southwestern France, on the eve of the reopening of the gym, as France eases lockdown measures taken to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus Mehdi Fedouach/Getty Images
There's more evidence showing that wearing a mask does not lower oxygen levels during an intense workout session.
Although masks may feel sweaty or uncomfortable when worn for extended periods of time, a new study published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society finds no real ill effects on lung function or oxygen intake for healthy people who wear masks regularly.
While some individuals may have reported online or to their doctors feeling restricted in breathing when wearing masks, according to this research study this perception could just be an illusion.
Researchers from several universities reviewed more than 70 published studies related to the effects of various masks on breathing during physical activity.
They found no evidence that cloth masks and surgical masks significantly disrupt a person's lung function or reduce oxygen levels, even during exercise. Evidence exists of people wearing masks during high intensity training without suffering adverse side effects; for instance, athletes training with elevation masks designed specifically to tax the respiratory system remain safe when used regularly.
"While wearing a mask may create the sensation of exerting more effort during activity, its actual effects on blood gases like oxygen and carbon monoxide levels or other physiological parameters is usually small enough that they cannot be detected," stated Susan Hopkins, lead author and professor at University of California San Diego School of Medicine in a press release.
Respirators Are Uncomfortable But Willn't Harm
The researchers even found masks with higher protection and filtering rates such as N95 respirators don't present a danger to people working out.
Ouch! They could be more uncomfortable than fabric masks, which could impede performance. However, researchers from UC San Diego discovered that while effort levels seemed higher when wearing such masks there was no evidence of detrimental effects on heart/lung function, blood flow to the brain or blood oxygen levels.
People living with severe lung disease should consult a physician prior to exercising in a mask.
Healthy people, regardless of age or gender, are able to wear masks during exercise with only minor effects on breathing function and oxygen levels, the study found.
However, masks were found to cause small changes to air resistance that could be an issue for people with severe cardiopulmonary diseases. For those people, the discomfort of a mask might be enough to impair their ability to exercise.
According to Hopkins, this population is also at greater risk of COVID-19, making preventative measures even more important. When that occurs, she suggested it may be best to consult a physician.
Your breathing may feel laboured initially, but experts agree it becomes simpler over time.
Researchers acknowledged that many people perceive breathing to be harder while wearing one, but said it really is nothing more than a feeling.
Wearing a face mask can be uncomfortable," Hopkins said. There can be tiny increases in breathing resistance. 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.
Even the experts have said they find masks to be somewhat inconvenient during a workout.
Masks are very helpful but a lot of people don't like wearing them, and I don't like wearing them so I get that, Dr. Linsey Marr, an athlete and a world-renowned expert on aerosol transmission at Virginia Tech, told Insider.
The tradeoff, though, is reducing your risk of COVID-19, particularly when social distancing and good ventilation aren't feasible. And, with a little practice, the discomfort of wearing a mask during exercise subsides a bit. After a couple of days, you can used to it and it's fine.