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Face Masks Won't Hamper Your Workout, Study Says

TUESDAY, Nov. 10, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- If you want to work out while wearing a cloth face mask, a new study says you can do it safely.

Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada found that wearing a triple-layer cloth face mask during a strenuous workout did not affect exercise performance or have a detrimental effect on blood or muscle oxygen.

"If people wear face masks during indoor exercise, it might make the sessions safer and allow gyms to stay open during COVID," said study co-author Phil Chilibeck, a professor in the university's College of Kinesiology.

It's noteworthy for gym users "since respiratory droplets may be propelled further with heavy breathing during vigorous exercise and because of reports of COVID-19 clusters in crowded enclosed exercise facilities," Chilibeck and his colleagues said.

To conduct the study, 14 physically active, healthy men and women did a brief warmup on a stationary bike. They progressively increased intensity while maintaining a required pedal rate. The test ended when they couldn't keep riding at that rate. They were typically able to ride for about six to 12 minutes before reaching exhaustion.

The participants did the test three times, once with no mask, once with a surgical mask and once with the triple-layer cloth mask. The researchers said a single-layer mask may not offer the same results.

The study did not find evidence to support the idea that vigorous exercise with a mask could compromise oxygen uptake or increase rebreathing of carbon dioxide, which could lead to a condition in which carbon dioxide displaces oxygen in the blood.

"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," the researchers said.

Chilibeck recommended that people working out in a gym, ice rink or other recreational space wear masks to keep safe.

"It might also allow sports to continue, including hockey, where transmission of COVID-19 appears to be high," he said in a university news release.

The study was published recently in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

More information

Read more from the World Health Organization about when and how to wear masks.

SOURCE: University of Saskatchewan, news release, Nov. 3, 2020

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