College of DuPage Nursing Student Anthony Genca wrote for Healthy Lombard that wearing a mask is important to stop the spread of COVID-19, but is it dangerous to wear a mask while working out? According to the Mayo Clinic (Mayo Clinic 2020), it is safe to wear masks while exercising, however, there are some important considerations with excising while wearing a mask. First, masks decrease airflow so wearing the mask while working out may affect breathing and temperature regulation. Next, maintaining a low to moderate intensity while working out is recommended as vigorous exercise greatly increases heart rate. High intensity exercise is not necessary, as the current physical activity guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise, or the equivalence thereof (Piercy, 2018). This amount of activity is equivalent to 30 minutes a day of brisk walking (Piercy). If exercising at a high intensity, however, it is recommended to monitor for signs and symptoms of an increased heart rate such as, palpitations, fluttering in the chest, or light-headedness.
Are There Side Effects from Wearing a Mask?
A common concern is whether or not there are side effects from wearing a mask during exercise. According to the Mayo Clinic (Mayo Clinic 2020), important side effects to monitor for include, dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, headache, muscular weakness, shortness of breath and a feeling of overall discomfort. Finding the right type of mask is key to preventing complications in addition to decreasing the exercise intensity. When wearing a mask, strategies to decrse intensity may include slowing the speed, and possibly the distance if engaging in biking or running.
What kind of masks are recommended?
Paper and surgical masks are not advisable during exercise since they lose the ability to effectively block germs when they become wet from consistent exhalation. Cotton masks may become damp during exercise, however, they are more breathable and not as susceptible to the buildup of moisture. The neck gaiter is a viable alternative to a mask during exercise since it allows for increased airflow while working out (New York Times, 2020).
Staying healthy doesn’t always require wearing a mask since there are many ways to keep active. One way to make this possible is to keep the activity outside, such as walking, jogging, biking, or swimming. COVID-19 safety precautions should still be maintained by keeping a proper distance, however. If going outside is not ideal, several fitness apps, DVDs, or equipment may be used in the home. Dumbbells, yoga mats, and Insanity workout videos are common household resources and readily available to assist exercise sessions. Should a gym be the preferred option, mask wearing will likely be required at the facility. Selecting a low intensity workout for approximately thirty minutes is recommended and cleaning the equipment before and after each use.
Working out is beneficial for health during this ongoing pandemic. Since wearing masks helps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, even though is it not preferable, it is a necessary practice and we will not be wearing masks forever. With that being said, awareness of the effects of wearing masks is necessary when exercising and may help to select an appropriate and realistic type of exercise session that is performed at the right intensity.
Piercy, K. L., Troiano, R. P., Ballard, R. M., Carlson, S. A., Fulton, J. E., Galuska, D. A., George, S. M., & Olson, R. D. (2018). The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. JAMA, 320(19), 2020–2028. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2018.14854
Reynolds, G. (2020, June 17). Exercising While Wearing a Mask. Retrieved November 13, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/17/well/move/exercising-while-wearing-a-mask.html
Wearing a mask while exercising FAQ. (n.d.). Retrieved November 13, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/wearing-a-mask-while-exercising-faq