How to Get the Most Out of Exercise While Wearing a Cloth Face Mask

  • 2021-04-19
  • 1845

If exercising just doesn’t feel the same since the pandemic started, it could be because of your cloth face mask.

That’s according to a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Researchers found wearing a cloth face mask while running vigorously on a treadmill was associated with a 14 percent decrease in exercise time and a 29 percent decrease in VO2 max, or the maximum amount of oxygen the body uses during exercise.

Participants self-reported feeling increasingly short of breath and claustrophobic at higher exercise intensities while wearing a cloth face mask.

The core recommendation from the study authors is that coaches, trainers, and athletes should consider modifying the frequency, intensity, time, and type of exercise when wearing a cloth face mask.

What experts have to say

You don’t need to exercise vigorously to reap health benefits.

“Exercising while engaging in rigorous physical activities compared to less intense exercise almost invariably can be more challenging,” said Vivek Cherian, an internal medicine physician affiliated with the University of Maryland Medical System.

“Rather than jumping straight to vigorous activities while wearing a mask, start slowly and gradually build up,” Cherian told Healthline. “The idea is this will give you a chance to gradually acclimate to more intense exercises.”

But don’t stop exercising, and don’t stop wearing a mask.

“Physical activity is one of the best ways to maintain physical and mental health, so we want to encourage people to find forms of exercise that are safe and comfortable,” said Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, MPH, FAAFP, the chief medical officer for prevention at the American Heart Association.

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