Depending on where you live, you may be allowed to exercise again outdoors or even indoors inside gyms. However, if you’re around a lot of people who are sweating and breathing heavily, you’re also putting yourself at significant risk of catching the coronavirus. A face mask can help mitigate this risk, but some precautions are required.

Obviously, wearing a mask while performing strenuous exercise is uncomfortable and according to the The World Health Organisation, people should not wear masks while exercising as masks may reduce the ability to breath comfortably. Exercising makes you sweat, which can make the mask become wet more quickly. This can make breathing difficult and create room for growth of microorganisms. When exercising, the important preventive measure during COVID-19 outbreak is to maintain physical distance of at least one metre for others. We ask experts for their views on wearing masks while exercising, especially when doing it outdoors.

Dr P. Raghu Ram, President of The Association of Surgeons of India, says that exercising while wearing a face mask can result in hyperventilation and reduce brain function. “Wearing a mask during exercise will act as a barrier to airflow, which can lower the oxygen levels in the re-circulated air. Also, more carbon dioxide exhaled during exercise can potentially get trapped by the mask and when it is re-inhaled, it can further cause excessive breathing or hyperventilation, and reduce brain function. This can manifest as confusion and loss of consciousness as well,” he explains.

It is a well-known fact that heart rate increases during exercise. But wearing a mask during exercise further increases heart rate by manifold, which can cause dehydration, light-headedness and dizziness and can even result in adverse cardiac effects.

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