exercising mask

Exercising While Wearing a Mask: Common Misconceptions

There are numerous accusations about mask-wearing floating around the internet that have only increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began. While many of these rumors and misconceptions are perpetuated by personal experiences, unfortunately, most of them are only hearsay.

Though every situation is unique, and each individual can experience different sensations while wearing a mask, the CDC, as well as many other medical and scientific research institutions, have shown that wearing a mask is safe and does help stop the spread of the virus.

To help answer any questions you may have, we’ve gathered information about some of the top misconceptions about wearing a mask while exercising.

Debunking Myths About Exercising in a Mask

It’s easy to get confused or feel overwhelmed by all of the contrasting information about masks coming at you from every direction. And again, each situation is unique to the individual. However, there are quite a few myths that have proven false with research and studies, especially where mask-wearing and physical activity are concerned.

We’ve researched some of the number one misconceptions about wearing masks while working out to help alleviate your worries. And if you’re still in doubt, a quick chat with your doctor can help you understand your limits and abilities based on your health and performance level.

Rumor: Wearing Masks Causes Carbon Dioxide Poisoning

As mask-wearing can make you much more aware of your breath and can feel as though the air you blow out is being pushed right back at you by your mask, it’s no wonder this myth is one of the top reasons people fear wearing a mask.

Fact: Mask Wearing Does Not Raise CO2 Levels

While we do breathe out carbon dioxide, masks do not create an air-tight seal, thus allowing the CO2 to escape. If you are wearing a proper mask, such as a cloth or surgical mask, there are pores in the material large enough to allow carbon dioxide to escape.

COVID-19 virus particles, however, cannot escape as easily – they attach to droplets from your respiratory tract, which are larger, making it more difficult for them to pass through. Even the material from an N95 mask allows for CO2 to escape.

Rumor: Wearing a Mask While Exercising Is Dangerous

When we exert ourselves, we breathe harder, and masks do create airflow resistance. With these facts, people have assumed that because their breathing is restricted, their oxygen levels will decrease and lead to asphyxiation and fainting.

Fact: Wearing a Mask During Vigorous Physical Activity Is Safe

Though the breathing muscles do have to work harder while wearing a mask, oxygen is not restricted. If you are a healthy individual and are outfitted with a proper mask, exercising is completely safe. Your heart rate may increase as your lungs adjust to working a little harder, so you may need to temporarily decrease your intensity, but eventually, your body will adapt, which is safe and normal.

Think of athletes who travel and play in different cities with different altitude levels. It is completely safe for them to play in different locations, but it might just take their bodies a bit of time to adjust to a new environment. As long as you have no underlying medical conditions, your body should adapt and function just as it is meant to do.

Rumor: Wearing a Mask Will Affect My Performance

It’s understandable to think that a mask might hinder your performance during exercise. If our lungs have to work harder, our heart rate will increase. This notion has led to the myth that overall performance in athletes and those exercising is negatively affected.

Fact: Mask Wearing While Exercising Has No Effect on Performance in Healthy Individuals

Studies have shown, however, that wearing a mask does not affect the overall performance of healthy individuals while engaging in vigorous physical activity. After testing participants, there was no notable difference in blood and muscle oxygen levels, peak performance, or time to exhaustion.

What to Know About Masks and Exercising

Choose the Right Mask

Having a breathable, properly fitted face mask is crucial when exercising. However, just be sure that your mask is still following state and federal guidelines. Experts recommend cloth masks that are made of moisture-wicking material or even three-ply disposable face masks.

Signs You Need to Slow Down or Try a New Mask

If you start to experience any of the following symptoms, slow down and take a break. It might just mean that your body hasn’t fully adjusted yet to wearing the mask yet. If the symptoms persist, have your doctor perform a physical to ensure that there are no other underlying causes.

  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Significant shortness of breath
  • Muscle fatigue

Spare Masks Are Important

Exercise equals sweat, and sweat will undoubtedly lead to a wet mask at some point during your workout. As the performance of a mask is hindered by moisture, it is a good idea to keep a spare or two on hand.

True Sports Physical Therapy

True Sports Physical Therapy has several locations in the state of Maryland, offering a wide range of services and rehab techniques. While our focus is sports rehabilitation, we have experience treating a range of conditions and injuries.

If you’re recovering from an injury, contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our expert physical therapists. Call (410) 946-1672.

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