When you leave the house these days, you probably think to yourself, “phone, keys, wallet… face mask.” Masks are essential in keeping you and those around you safe by reducing the spread of COVID-19. In today’s world, face masks are needed for practically every activity where you might come into contact with another person; this includes the gym. But how do you get the most out of your workout (and remain safe) while wearing your face covering?
Below, we’ll go over how wearing a face mask affects you, plus what to do and what not to do while wearing a mask during your daily dose of exercise.
Why Wear a Mask During Exercise?
Masks are recommended by the CDC and other healthcare professionals to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in shared spaces. Many scientists have also been studying the benefits and adversities of donning a mask during exercise. Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, found one’s heart rate will likely increase 8-10 beats per minute while wearing a mask, but that would only be noticeable during high-intensity exercises. An informal study at the University of New Mexico also found that some people may experience dizziness upon exertion. On the bright side, the more you exercise with a mask on, the more your body will be used to reduced oxygen levels while you work out, meaning when this is all over and you can ditch the mask, you will be an unstoppable powerhouse!
While wearing a mask may seem slightly unpleasant, you’re still encouraged to wear one to avoid potentially spreading any infectious particles throughout an indoor environment. People suffering from any pre-existing respiratory conditions—such as COPD, asthma, cystic fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, pulmonary fibrosis, or any other condition affecting their heart and lungs—could be at a higher risk of adverse effects and should consult their physician before attempting to exercise with a face mask.
Ultimately, as long as you consult your primary physician and monitor how you’re feeling throughout your workout, you should be fine to exercise while wearing a mask.
To Do or Not To Do
OK, so now you know the potential effects of sporting a face covering while being active, but let’s break it down a little more.
Here is a list of “dos and don’ts” recommended by scientists and athletes:
- Do: Wear a cloth face covering made from synthetic materials. These tend to hold less moisture and will allow you to breathe easier. Try to get cloth masks that are marketed as having two layers or fewer; these are better at preventing overheating. Be sure to pack extra masks to change them out if you plan to exercise for more than 30 minutes.
- Don’t: Wear a paper mask or any form of surgical/PPE wear. These accumulate a ton of moisture and result in difficult breathing and diminished effectiveness when it comes to blocking any germs.
- Do: Take the break. Exercising with anything covering your nose and mouth will restrict the amount of oxygen going to your lungs. If you start feeling dizzy, nauseous, shortness of breath, numbing, or tingling, that’s your body warning you your oxygen is running low. It’s essential to listen to your body, and if it tells you to slow down, then switch your run for a walk and allow your breath to stabilize.
- Don’t: Overexert yourself. If you haven’t worked out in a while, wearing a mask could make getting back into the rhythm even harder. Take it slow. Overexertion can trigger other adverse effects, such as lack of oxygen, heart arrhythmia, low blood pressure, low blood glucose, and dehydration. All of these could lead to serious health risks and complications that could further restrict your gym time.
Avoid the Gym Altogether
If you’re more comfortable staying away from the gym during this time, you’re in luck. There are still plenty of ways to achieve your health and fitness goals.
Here are some unconventional ways to get fit and stay safe:
- At-home workouts are all the rage. You can find great personal and group workout classes online. Don’t have the equipment? Look around your home and get creative. A backpack that weighs 10 pounds is the same as a 10-pound medicine ball.
- Be sure to maintain a balanced diet. We know snacking is tempting in times of uncertainty but try to go for carrots and hummus versus chips and dip.
- Take your workout outdoors. Sunshine and sweat is the perfect combo for a great workout. If you need some form of social contact, try tennis. This sport allows you to work out and see a friend from a safe distance.
If you’re immunocompromised, it’s best to avoid public spaces and limit your exposure. If it’s unavoidable, use the CDC‘s recommended precautions when going out to prevent yourself and those around you from contracting and spreading this disease.
Looking for more information or ideas on how to maintain your healthy lifestyle? We’re here to help.