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Training with a face mask: the do's and don'ts



  Woman on a bicycle and with a face mask

Will sports with a face mask be part of the post-coronavirus "normal"?


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When home orders begin to diminish and the coronavirus pandemic simmer (it must end at some point, right ?! ), gyms and fitness studios & # 39; s open again. This will raise a lot of questions for gym junkies, Orangetheory die-hards and all other fitness buffs. Is it safe to go to the gym? Do I still have to stay six feet from from everyone? How powerful should I wipe equipment?

Of course, you can always stick to your home training routine or continue practicing household items to ensure safety. But those who would like to return to the community aspect of fitness will certainly ask one big question: should I exercise with a face mask on?

This may be necessary in some parts of the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone in public wear a mask or face cover, especially in places where it is difficult to distance themselves, such as a supermarket or pharmacy. Several countries and some parts of the US have made this practice mandatory. We don't know when those guidelines will end, and they could still be in effect when the gyms open again.

Because of the thought of practicing with a face mask on sounds, er, miserable, CNET spoke to a few experts who discuss everything you need to know about sports while wearing a face mask.

Read more: Etiquette in gyms: don't break these 10 important rules when gyms reopen after coronavirus

Is it safe to exercise with a face mask on?

Overall, yes, it's safe for most people to exercise while wearing a face mask, Grayson Wickham, a physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist at Movement Vault, tells CNET.

"Most people can do all the exercises with a face mask on," says Wickham. "You will want to monitor how you feel during exercise and look for specific symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness, numbness or tingling and shortness of breath."

Read more: Coronavirus states: good news amid the terrible reports

Shouldn't someone train with a face mask on?

Wickham says people with underlying cardiovascular or respiratory conditions should exercise caution when exercising with a face mask on. The severity of their condition will determine whether or not it is appropriate to exercise with a face mask on, Wickham says.

"Someone with an underlying respiratory disease who is on the more serious side will want to exercise indoors without a face mask," he says, to ensure safety for themselves and others.

Examples of such conditions are asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis and other conditions affecting the heart or lungs. If you have a cardiovascular or respiratory condition, it is a good idea to ask your doctor about training with a face mask before trying it. If you are unable to see your doctor now, try calling or schedule a telemedicine visit .

Also, people who are new to exercise or who have not exercised for a long time should take extra care if they exercise while wearing a face mask. Monitor the intensity of your workout and keep it on the low to moderate side to avoid symptoms like dizziness and fainting, says Wickham.

What happens if you train with a face mask on?

Compared to normal breathing, wearing any type of protective mask reduces airflow to your lungs, Scott McAfee, physiotherapist and orthopedic specialist at MovementX, tells CNET. Less oxygen in your lungs means less oxygen in your bloodstream and working muscles, making training difficult.

"Different masks have different levels of airflow limitation depending on the thickness of the material," says McAfee. "With less air, your body needs less oxygen to use during exercise to convert glucose [sugar] into energy."

McAfee says that anyone, even those in relatively high fitness, can expect fatigue more quickly when training with a face mask, comparing this scenario to altitude training or wearing an oxygen deficiency mask to cause better breathing fitness (this is something top athletes do).

"In a few weeks, your body will certainly adapt by becoming more efficient at metabolizing oxygen, but this will take time," says McAfee. "If you start to feel dizzy, unbalanced, or overly tired, stop. Be smart [and] don't do it."

Read more: Do homemade facial masks stop you from getting coronavirus? Here's what we know

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Expect to tire more easily when wearing a mask than during normal exercise.


Getty Images

What to Expect While Training with a Face Mask on

"Due to the increase in breathing resistance, it is normal for you to become breathless faster than normal during your workout when you are not wearing the face mask," says Wickham. "You may not be able to perform at the same level as if you don't wear the face mask," he says, adding that you can expect a drop in your training performance while wearing a face mask.

Someone with a higher fitness level may not feel the effects of a face mask as hard as someone who is just starting out with exercise, says Wickham, but even very fit people will most likely not be able to perform at their normal level.

Notice how your body responds to your workout while wearing a face mask, especially during higher intensity exercise such as heavy lifting, sprints, plyometry, CrossFit-like workouts high intensity interval training (HIIT) and cardio training .

If you feel light-headed, dizzy, or extremely short of breath, sit down and take a break. If symptoms don't clear up relatively quickly, take off your mask to allow yourself to breathe normally, Wickham says. If you do need to take off your mask, always follow your state's health rules and try to keep a distance of at least two meters between you and other people.

Read more: Outdoor sports during coronavirus: the do's and don'ts

How you don't feel limited while exercising with a face mask on

Sorry, you won't really get around this.

"Unfortunately, it's hard to feel constrained while wearing the mask," says Wickham. "The good news is that your lungs and cardiovascular system receive extra training while wearing your face mask because it provides extra breathing resistance."

A Silver Lining: The more you exercise with a face mask on, the more your body gets used to the reduced oxygen supply, and theoretically you should feel like an animal when you can finally train without a face mask on.

How to Know if You Are Getting Enough Oxygen

As long as you don't have an underlying respiratory or cardiovascular condition and are listening to your body, you will most likely be getting enough oxygen while exercising with a face mask, says Wickham.

The most accurate way to determine if you're getting enough oxygen is to use a pulse oximeter, says Wickham, who tells you exactly the oxygen saturation of your blood.

"It's best to just listen to your body," he says. "If you experience dizziness, lightheadedness, extreme shortness of breath or numbness and tingling, you should stop exercising and sit down and take a break."

Wickham warns against pushing through these sensations: "If you feel any of these symptoms, this is your body telling you that something is not right, and there is something that you are not getting enough oxygen in your lungs and for the rest of your body & # 39 ;, he says.

So for all the people who will sprint to the squat rack when gyms reopen (see you there!), yes, you can safely practice with a face mask on, provided you listen to your body's warning signs, and since going to the gym with a face mask is probably a post-coronavirus standard, at least you can make sure that your lungs will be just as much stronger as you can practice freely again.

Read more: Coronavirus tips: 15 practical ways to help you stay safe when going out in public

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The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care professional if you have questions about a medical condition or health goals.


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