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09th Nov 2020

Face masks don’t obstruct your breathing during exercise, study finds

Face masks don't impair your physical performance, according to a new study. Scientists found "no detrimental effects on performance"

Alex Roberts

Face masks exercise gym

You can stay fit and protected at the same time

Exercise performance isn’t impacted by the use of face masks, a new study has discovered.

To help stop the spread of Covid-19, face masks have become mandatory in the majority of public places. Some gyms have even adopted this policy.

Naturally, many people questioned this. Some wondered whether face masks would hinder your oxygen intake or impact on physical performance.

Science says you shouldn’t worry about that.

A new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health did not find any evidence to support the scare stories.

Wearing a face mask while working out won’t impact your performance. (Photo: iStock)

Scientists from the University of Saskatchewan put 14 healthy adults under the microscope. All 14 were tested on a stationary exercise bike three times:

  • Once wearing a surgical face mask
  • Once wearing a three-tier cloth face mask
  • A third time with no face mask

Scientists recorded their levels of blood and muscle oxygen throughout the test using non-invasive measurement tools.

The results showed “no detrimental effects on performance”, according to scientists.

They said: “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.

“This is important when fitness centres open up during COVID-19 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.”

Gyms across the UK are currently closed until December 2nd, at least. However, if you do choose to wear a face mask to exercise now or when gyms reopen, you can rest assured that it won’t hinder your performance.

Wearing a face mask may help gyms to stay open long-term, according to one of the study’s lead researchers.

Phil Chilibeck, a professor at the USask College of Kinesiology said: “If people wear face masks during indoor exercise, it might make the sessions safer and allow gyms to stay open during COVID.

“It might also allow sports to continue, including hockey, where transmission of COVID-19 appears to be high.”