Should you wear a mask while exercising? What kind of mask should you wear? Experts weigh in.
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The rapid spike in Coronavirus cases every day has made us more conscious about our health. People around the world are taking necessary precautions to keep themselves from getting infected from the deadly virus.
While it is encouraged to maintain good hygiene and practise social distancing; wearing a mask has more or less become mandatory in all public places. Even if it causes you some discomfort, you cannot take it off.
Recently, a 26-year-old man from Wuhan, China ended up in the hospital complaining of chest pain, after he went for a run wearing a mask. According to reports, to make up for the loss of fitness during the lockdown, he had pushed himself to keep running despite feeling breathless.
Should You Wear a Mask While Going For a Run?
Wearing a mask while exercising might protect you, but it is true that it restricts the flow of air into the lungs and makes you feel breathless and tired.
Dr Radhika Bharath, a Chennai-based physiotherapist, who is also a marathon runner and fitness instructor, believes that it is important to wear a mask while running, but the key is to take it slow.
“If you are an athlete or a regular runner you should not push your body beyond your regular pace. On the days you are going to work out wearing a mask, it is best to run at a pace slower than your usual. Remember, that your heart and lungs are overworking, so avoid training for endurance. But if you miss endurance training, find a space where you can maintain 6 ft distance with others, so you can lower your mask and run,” says Radhika.
Sunil Kumar, the founder of La Brawn Fitness and Dance in Bengaluru and a certified personal trainer and nutritionist, offers an alternate opinion.
“If you are a recreational runner, you can find it hard to run while wearing a mask. So, if you choose to avoid it, go for a run during a time when streets won’t be crowded, and find a place large enough to maintain distance from others,” he says.
Sunil also explains how oxygen deprivation while training, in a structured manner, can help increase the number of red blood cells produced in the body, which enhances the workout.
“Some athletes train in higher altitudes and use training masks to control breathing while working out. But these are professionals. For an amateur, an intense workout can lead to severe breathlessness and black outs. The exercises must be structured based on the individual’s existing health conditions,” he says.
Which Mask Should I Wear?
There are primarily three varieties of masks—N95 masks, disposable surgical masks, and the ones that are made with cloth. The N95 mask is a tight-fitting, super-filter mask that restricts the movement of air. This is exclusively meant for health workers and affected patients, as it prevents the spread of droplets. If used on a run, the person will be left gasping for breath, and may eventually collapse due to lack of oxygen.
“It is advisable to wear disposable surgical masks while jogging. It ensures there is a free flow of air. Other materials that are safe for runners are a bandana converted into a mask or a homemade cloth mask,” says Dr Radhika.
With summer in full force, another important factor to remember is that running can cause excessive perspiration. While expelling moisture, masks become saturated and its filtering properties become ineffective.
“When you are wearing a mask you breathe in more of the air that you just exhaled. It is not dangerous, but it is very unhygienic. If the mask is wet, immediately switch to another. In case of cloth masks, remember to carry a spare with you,” says Radhika.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)