In places around the world, people are being asked or encouraged to wear masks. In some places, they are also ordered to stay at home, only to be allowed to leave their home for essential things including exercise.
Those instructions make for a dilemma. If they are exercising, should people wear masks when they engage in rigorous or intense physical activity? Wouldn’t it be hard to wear a cover over your mouth and nose when you’re already working harder than usual to draw air into your lungs?
Since the early days of the coronovirus epidemic, scientists and health officials have raised serious concerns about this. The official advice of the World Health Organization states that people “should not wear masks while exercising, as masks may reduce the ability to breathe comfortably”.
However, it may not be as simple.
A new review of the effect of the mask on the cardiorespiratory system – the heart, blood vessels, and lungs – during physical activity suggests that most people should be able to breathe effectively with the mask while exercising, although this is not always the case. It is possible Feel that side.
“There may be an alleged greater effort with exercise, but the effects of wearing masks on breathing work on gases like oxygen and CO2 in the blood or other physiological parameters are small, often too small to detect. Is, “says exercise physiologist Susan Hopkins from the University of California San Diego (UCSD).
In the new study, Hopkins and her co-authors reviewed existing scientific literature, looking at the effects of different face coverings on cardiorespiratory response during physical activity, considering dozens of different studies, and incorporating a variety of masks Gone – Cloth coverings, surgical masks including, N95 respirators, and industrial respirators.
Researchers acknowledge that literature directly evaluating the issue is developing and more studies are still needed.
Nevertheless, they say that current evidence suggests that masks worn by healthy people during exercise do not significantly affect lung function and oxygen intake – despite the minimal resistance to airflow that they form – Meaning that it is unlikely to wear a mask or respirator during physical activity. To damage
However, dyspnea (a feeling of shortness of breath) and other forms of discomfort can potentially increase when people exercise and wear masks, especially if they are not used to wearing masks.
“Wearing a face mask can be uncomfortable,” says Hopkins.
“Resistance to breathing may increase slightly. You can breathe in hot air again, increase CO2 air slightly. And if you are exercising, the mask will make your face warm and sweaty. May. But these are sensory perceptions. They do not. Affects cardiopulmonary function in healthy people. “
Researchers say the same result applies to both young and old, regardless of gender, but they point out that there may be an exception for patients with severe cardiopulmonary disease, as they are likely to experience unstable dyspnea. increases.
This discomfort may serve as a basis for such individuals to be exempt from mask regulations, researchers suggest, but it is something that should be weighed against the risks of not wearing masks, which may be more severe. is.
“In such cases, these individuals may feel very uncomfortable to exercise, and that should be discussed with their doctor,” Hopkins says.
“However, the fact that these individuals are at great risk, should they contract COVID-19 should also be considered.”
For the rest of us, the findings – which are independently supported by a recent experiment conducted by Canadian researchers – mean that we should not worry too much about the discomfort of wearing masks while exercising.
Sure, it doesn’t sound great, but it really beats the option.
The findings are stated in Annals of the American Thoracic Society.