Exercising during COVID-19: Wearing masks while exercising can cause breathing difficulties

  • Mon, 07 Sep 2020 16:29:36 GMT
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Exercise with face mask: Wearing a mask during exercise will act as a barrier to airflow, which can lower the oxygen levels in the re-circulated air. Read here to know more about the risks associated with wearing masks while exercising during COVID-19.

According to the The World Health Organisation, people should not wear masks while exercising as masks may reduce the ability to breath comfortably. Exercising makes you sweat, which can make the mask become wet more quickly. This can make breathing difficult and create room for growth of microorganisms. When exercising, the important preventive measure during COVID-19 outbreak is to maintain physical distance of at least one metre for others. We ask experts for their views on wearing masks while exercising, especially when doing it outdoors.

Wearing masks while exercising: What experts have to say

Dr P. Raghu Ram, President of The Association of Surgeons of India, says that exercising while wearing a face mask can result in hyperventilation and reduce brain function. "Wearing a mask during exercise will act as a barrier to airflow, which can lower the oxygen levels in the re-circulated air. Also, more carbon dioxide exhaled during exercise can potentially get trapped by the mask and when it is re-inhaled, it can further cause excessive breathing or hyperventilation, and reduce brain function. This can manifest as confusion and loss of consciousness as well," he explains.

It is a well-known fact that heart rate increases during exercise. But wearing a mask during exercise further increases heart rate by manifold, which can cause dehydration, light-headedness and dizziness and can even result in adverse cardiac effects.

"It is important to balance the benefits of wearing a mask versus its adverse effects during exercise," says Dr Ram while adding, "At a time when there is a rapid surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, wearing a mask in public spaces is absolutely essential. In the absence of adequate evidence-based information regarding use of mask during exercise, it would be prudent not to exercise in public places for a few months," he suggests.

Wearing face masks while exercising can also affect exercise performance. "It will impact your pace of performance while running, cycling or any other cardio training," says Dr M.S. Kanwar, Senior Consultant, Respiratory, Critical care and Sleep Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Delhi.

It basically means the people might experience a hard time catching their breathe with a face mask on and also might feel worn out and fatigued faster than usual. "If you have any symptoms like chest pain, dizziness or laboured breathing while exercising wearing a mask, do not exert yourself. Remove your mask and sit for some time, until you catch you breath," Dr Kanwar recommends.

For those exercising at home, wearing a mask is not required at all. Dr. Bharat Agarwal, Consultant, Internal Medicine, Apollo Hospitals Navi Mumbai, while giving an alternative, says that people jogging outdoors can run at a slower pace and wear "disposable masks in order to ensure decent flow or air in the lungs and preventing overworking them."


You need not wear a face mask while exercising indoors
Photo Credit: iStock

"Wearing a mask and exercising is not advisable for people who have respiratory or cardiovascular conditions like asthma, bronchitis, or COPD. It's important to consult a doctor before attempting workouts while wearing masks," says Dr Agarwal.

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