• Anatomy Of Fitness

Should we wear a MASK while exercising?

With the COVID-19 pandemic expected to be around for a few more months, people are losing patience to continue staying at 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. Now that the authorities have issued guidelines for allowing gyms and public places to gradually reopen, a fundamental question needs to be answered scientifically – should we wear a MASK while exercising? Let us analyse.

Wearing a mask while exercising:

While masks are effective at preventing infection spreads, they make it difficult to breathe, especially while exercising. As our exercise intensity increases, our breathing becomes heavier. If we are to 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 may quickly become drenched in sweat. Sweat on the mask will promote accelerated growth of microorganisms. As part of a contingency plan, it is always a good option to carry a mask in our pocket and use it if we run out of other options. Recent research has concluded that we should avoid wearing a mask while exercising. The same is advised by the World Health Organisation and doctors.

It’s best to avoid exercising in crowded places where social distancing and hygiene can’t be efficiently maintained.

Protection in the absence of a mask:

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

Too paranoid to give up wearing a mask while exercising?

What if we want to exercise outdoors or workout at the gym but are too paranoid about not wearing a mask? It would be best to get over the paranoia of not wearing a mask. Yes, masks are effective at preventing infection spreads but, they can have catastrophic consequences when worn while exercising. If you can’t get over the paranoia, here are some tips for exercising while wearing a mask:

  • Choose a mask that is comfortable to wear, is 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 more than one mask if possible. In case the mask becomes too wet due to sweat or breaks due to sudden movements, there will be a spare mask to use.

  • Do not set personal records wearing a mask. 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. Plan reducing the workout intensity, run slow, be alert and cautious.

  • Too high heart rate may be dangerous while wearing a mask. Make sure to not 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 no apparent need. It gives us time to think, catch our breath and lower the 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, maintain 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 frequently with soap and water, using a sanitizer, disinfecting surfaces, sanitising equipment etc.

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

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