With the COVID-19 Pandemic, social distancing, frequent handwashing with soap or alcohol-based sanitizers, and wearing a mask has become the new “Norm” of general behaviour.
You can see people wearing masks everywhere all the time, including during workouts.
Hmm…It must be SAFE. OR is it?
Recently there was a death. A person wearing a face mask died during his usual morning run due to collapsed lungs.
So the question is – SHOULD I WEAR THE MASK OR NOT FOR MY TRAINING?
Before I answer this question, let’s understand the basic functioning of our Heart, Lungs, and Blood circulation.
Whenever we do exercises such as Strength training, Cardio, Martial arts, Yoga, or any other physical activity for that matter, two important organs of the body come into action: The Heart and The Lungs.
While the Heart pumps oxygen-rich blood to working muscles and the entire body, Lungs remove carbon dioxide and adds oxygen to the blood. During exercise, muscles work harder, uses more oxygen, and also produce more carbon dioxide. To cope with this extra demand, the breathing rate increases to 40-60 times per minute from a baseline of 15 times per minute during rest. Blood circulation also increases to deliver oxygen to working muscles so that they can keep moving.
Compared to normal breathing, wearing any kind of a 'Mask' will obstruct the nose and mouth, and decrease the airflow (thereby oxygen) to the lungs. Less oxygen in the lungs means less oxygen in the bloodstream and to the working muscles. This makes training more difficult. Even those who have a relatively high level of fitness will fatigue faster when exercising with a face mask.
Wearing a mask during the workout can also cause a sudden increase in Co2 concentration as the dissipation of this exhaled waste gas is obstructed. High levels of Co2 in the system is called as 'Hypercapnea', which leads to -
Inability to concentrate or think clearly
Headache, Dizziness, Dimmed eyesight
Shortness of breath, rapid breathing, and increased blood pressure.
These symptoms usually appear vague and if a person still continues with the activity, it may result in serious complications such as –
Loss of Consciousness
Seizures and even death.
The elderly, young children, and people with underlying Lung & Heart problems are more prone to these complications.
BUT ATHLETES DO TRAIN WEARING MASKS RIGHT??
Yes SOME athletes ( Mountain climbers, High altitude cyclists, and Ultra-marathoners) do train wearing masks. This kind of 'Hypoxic Training' is done only by elite athletes under medical supervision and/or in a controlled environment with medical aid or oxygen cylinders kept on standby. This kind of training is very specific when they plan for high altitude situations or circumstances. Continuous long term training under these circumstances is said to cause adaptability and alter the Oxygen metabolism to suit this pattern of training. It is also said to cause increased lung capacity which results in peak performance even with short oxygen supply. But science doesn’t really support these kinds of training methods as they are pushing their bodies to unnatural limits.
Therefore for the majority population where the primary reason for training is overall health & fitness, wearing a mask during workouts is strongly NOT RECOMMENDED.
BUT, what about the Mandate to wear a Mask all the time??
Actually, it is not mandatory to wear a mask all the time. WHO guidelines clearly state that:
1. If you are healthy you only need to wear a mask when you are taking care of a person infected or suspected to be infected by COVID-19
2. Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
So, DO NOT wear a Mask during your workouts. Remember Safe Training is more important than Training itself.
Stay safe, Purity, and Caution is the way. Not Paranoia!