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Is it safe to exercise while wearing a face mask? Athletes must read this report


A new study shows that exercising with a face mask does not increase body temperature or heart rate during exercise. Researchers at the University of Connecticut tested four types of face masks. This includes surgical masks, N95 respirators and gaiters covering the neck. The study, recently published in the journal Sports Health, showed that none of them had a significant increase in body temperature or heart rate compared to the group without the face mask.

jogging for an hour
Participants walked or jogged for 60 minutes in a 90°F environment at low to moderate exercise intensity. Ayami Yoshihara, director of sport safety at Yukon’s Corey Stringer Institute, said: “Before this study, no one knew whether wearing a mask in the heat would put additional stress on the person exercising. We know that masks are important to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We didn’t know whether exercising with a mask in the heat, where your body is already managing the added stress, would affect safety.’

Sensor installed inside and outside the mask
Yoshihara and his team also measured the humidity and temperature inside and outside the face mask. They placed a sensor on the faces of the participants on the inside and outside of the face mask. They found that sport masks and gaiters were significantly reduced as the mask absorbed more sweat and water vapor from the outside air. Whereas participants reported a higher degree of shortness of breath during exercise with the face mask on due to changes in humidity and temperature inside the mask.


Discomfort not related to heart rate
There was no association between reported discomfort and measures of body temperature and heart rate. Yoshihara hopes this research can help shape guidelines for athletes who are exercising and competing during the summer and into the fall while ambient temperatures are still high. “It is possible and safe to use a mask during low to moderate intensity exercise in the summer,” Yoshihara said.


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