Long-distance at full exertion can lead to complete exhaustion

Have you ever wondered if wearing a face mask would impede your workout at the gym or even a long-distance run? It seems logical that slowing down the flow of air into and out of your lungs would leave you with an overall reduced performance level compared to not wearing a face mask.

Quick Summary of Face Masks

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/more/masking-science-sars-cov2.html Face masks have been studied in many different industries – shipboard life in military, hair salons, contact tracing, airline travel, and more. In every case, face masks significantly reduced the risk of infecting others in near proximity, even for hours at a time.

Protection vs Exercising

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/face-masks-and-exercise-what-to-know-before-you-work-out Exercising to exhaustion is a true test of performance and endurance. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health did several studies and confirmed that face masks did not affect overall performance. Uncomfortable, yes, but not degrading.

Another study (https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/21/8110/htm) also substantiated the level of performance of athletes performing vigorous exercises and found no degradation of performance for healthy individuals.

Test Details

Fourteen healthy athletes (seven men and seven women) rode a cycle ergometer (https://www.habdirect.co.uk/how-to-choose-the-ideal-cycle-ergometer/). Cycle ergometers measure work, power, and energy during exercise. Some measure heart function, cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2max), lactate threshold, oxygen economy, and more. Olympic athletes to patients going through rehabilitation use these machines.

Surgical and cloth masks commonly found in stores were used. Testing was done with the two types of face masks and no mask at all. Each participant exercised to exhaustion. Masks were assigned randomly to each person.

Blood oxygen levels were measured with a pulse oximetry. Tissue oxygenation was measured with a near-infrared spectroscopy. The study results showed that each participant wearing a face mask had the same readings on peak power, and performance (time to exhaustion).

Additionally, each person showed no differences when comparing blood oxygen levels, tissue oxygenation, perceived physical exertion, and heart rate.


These were healthy people performing until they were completely exhausted. There were no differences with or without masks. The numbers cancel the feeling that a mask can get in the way of vigorous exercise. Our minds are powerful in what we think. Mindset before starting any activity is critical.

The testing was not done on those with asthma or with people who had acute or chronic respiratory or other health issues. Face masks can make some people feel like they are having panic attacks if they perceive difficulty in breathing through a mask.

Face masks will not make your comfort level disappear. Breathing through any type of filter is not comfortable, especially when labored. High-intensity exercises can be done but not as easily as low-intensity exercises where breathing is not critical.

Long-term exercise might increase the level of moisture inside the mask and it is wise to bring multiple masks to trade out when that happens. Always use caution when advancing into an area that you have not done before. In this case it is the discomfort level exercising and breathing. Stop anytime that you might feel lightheaded or dizzy.

If you have not worked out in a while because your gym has been closed or you have restricted your indoor exercise programs, talk to your physician to ensure there are not restrictions with your intended exercise and any feeling of anxiety you might have exercising with a face mask.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin – RedOLaughlin.com


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