• Anatomy Of Fitness

Should we wear a MASK while exercising?

Updated: Dec 21, 2021

With the COVID-19 pandemic predicted to be around forever and newer variants like Delta & Omicron showing up, people are losing the patience to continue staying home and pursuing home-based exercises. Many are too used to going out for a jog or to the gym for a workout. Months of not working out or exercising have only added to the frustration. The authorities have issued guidelines for gradually opening gyms and public places. However, we need to answer a fundamental question scientifically – should we wear a MASK while exercising? Let us analyse.

Wearing a MASK While EXERCISING:

While masks effectively prevent infection spreads, they make breathing difficult, especially while exercising. As our exercise intensity increases, our breathing becomes heavier. If we wear a mask while exercising, it may disrupt our breathing patterns and make us feel dizzy. It is a different ball game when our breathing is not heavy. Masks may reduce the ability to breathe comfortably while exercising and quickly become drenched in sweat. Sweat on the mask promotes the accelerated growth of microorganisms. As part of a contingency plan, carrying an additional mask in our pocket is always an excellent choice. It is good to use it if we run out of other options. Recent research has concluded that we should avoid wearing a mask while exercising. The World Health Organization and doctors advise the same.

It is best to avoid exercising in crowded places where it is difficult to maintain social distancing and hygiene.

Protection in the Absence of a MASK:

If we are exercising outdoors or working out at a gym, it is best to keep a physical distance of at least one metre from each other and, if possible, use a face shield. Face shields are remarkably effective at preventing infection spreads. It is also vital for people around us to follow the guidelines. Gyms must enforce strict rules for members and ensure that everyone (including the staff) practise basic hygiene like washing hands often with soap and water, using a sanitiser, recording body temperature before entering the gym, disinfecting surfaces, sanitising equipment etc.

Tips for EXERCISING while Wearing a MASK:

What if we want to exercise outdoors or at a gym but are too paranoid about not wearing a mask? Yes, masks effectively prevent infections from spreading, but they can have catastrophic consequences when worn while exercising. If you cannot get over the paranoia, here are some tips for exercising while wearing a mask:

  • Choose a comfortable mask to wear. It should be thin enough to allow heavy breathing and thick enough to prevent infections.

  • If there is even a slight feeling of breathlessness, stop, catch your breath, and begin again.

  • Carry a spare mask. Use it if the mask becomes too wet due to sweat, breaks due to sudden movements, or any other reason.

  • Do not set personal records wearing a mask. For example, maybe you are motivated and at the peak of fitness, setting records for sprinting, long-distance running, heaviest squat/ deadlift etc., while wearing a mask can backfire. Instead, plan to reduce the workout intensity, run slow, be alert and cautious.

  • Too high heart rate may be dangerous while wearing a mask. Make sure not to cross a comfortable heart rate. Use a wearable device like a smartwatch/ wrist band/ chest heart rate sensor etc., to set alarms if the heart rate crosses the comfortable zone.

  • Keep taking breaks even if there is no clear need. It gives us time to think, catch our breath and lower our heart rate.

  • Stay hydrated and avoid dehydration. Recent studies have shown a link between dehydration and an elevated heart rate.

Key takeaways:

  1. It is best to avoid wearing a mask while exercising outdoors or at the gym.

  2. Rather than masks, keep a physical distance of at least one metre and adhere to guidelines issued by local authorities.

  3. It is advisable to wear a face shield and practise hygiene like washing hands often with soap and water, using a sanitiser, disinfecting surfaces, sanitising equipment etc.

  4. At all costs, avoid exercising in crowded places.

We hope the article helped us understand if we should wear a mask while exercising.

#COVID19 #mask #exercise #workout #gym #training #awareness #Omicron #Delta

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