Working Out With a Face Mask Doesn’t Hinder Breathing

When you get ready to leave the house, you check for your wallet, your keys, and nowadays, your face mask. It’s the new norm. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing cloth face coverings while in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19—and that means even during your workouts.

There are plenty of excuses people will give to avoid wearing a mask when working out. Among them: “it’s uncomfortable” and the most common, “it’s hard to breathe.” Turns out, the “hard to breathe” excuse isn’t necessarily the case. Experts say wearing a face mask doesn’t actually hinder your breathing during exercise, according to a new analysis published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Researchers measured oxygen levels in the blood and muscles of 14 physically active and healthy participants during an aerobic fitness test. The test was administered three times—once while participants wore cloth masks, once while wearing surgical masks, and once with no masks. The data showed no evidence that breathing was hindered during the workout.

“Our findings are of importance because they indicate that people can wear face masks during intense exercise with no detrimental effects on performance and minimal impact on blood and muscle oxygenation,” said the researchers.

Wearing a face mask is not going to deplete your oxygen levels. You’re able to get all the oxygen you need and your carbon dioxide levels aren’t rising.

So why do you feel out of breath when you’re exercising with a face mask on?

The reason you may feel the need to stop and catch your breath during a workout is because what a face mask can do is promote different breathing patterns. Because most people aren’t used to wearing a face mask, it can cause a sensation that makes them feel both uncomfortable and anxious.

Dr. Christopher Ewing, M.D., an Alberta, Canada-based lung specialist, explained that “although much of our breathing is unconscious and driven by our respiratory center, it can also be influenced by the mind. When we’re feeling discomfort, even subconsciously, it can change the way we breathe.”

This can result in a person breathing too quickly or too slowly, feeling dizzy, nauseous, or sweating more. It’s not because you’re not getting enough oxygen. If you notice your breathing patterns have changed, there are a number of breathing exercises that can help you breathe better during exercise and during rest intervals, and there’s even a way to breathe better for recovery. And don’t miss these great face mask options for running and outdoor workouts.

Source: Men’s Health