Concerned about how to exercise while wearing masks? A new study finds that wearing a face mask while exercising does not significantly increase body temperature or heart rate.
The University of Connecticut researchers tested four types of face masks: a surgical mask, a N95 respirator, a gaiter that covers the neck and goes over the nose and mouth, and a sport mask.
The study, which was recently published in the journal Sports Health, found that none of them significantly increased body temperature or heart rate when compared to the control group.
Participants walked or jogged for 60 minutes at low to moderate exercise intensities in a 90-degree Fahrenheit environment.
“No one knew if wearing a mask in the heat would cause an exerciser to become more stressed before this study. While we know that masks are important for preventing Covid-19 transmission, we didn’t know if exercising with a mask in the heat, when your body is already dealing with additional stressors, would compromise safety,” said Ayami Yoshihara, director of Sport Safety at the Korey Stringer Institute at UConn.
The humidity and temperature inside and outside of the face mask were also measured by Yoshihara and her team. On the participants’ faces, they inserted a sensor both inside and outside the face masks.
They discovered that as the materials absorbed more sweat and water vapour from breathed air, the sport mask and gaiter became much more humid.
While there was a link between reported discomfort and body temperature and heart rate during exercise with a face mask due to changes in humidity and temperature inside the mask, there was no link between reported discomfort and body temperature or heart rate.
Yoshihara expects that this study will aid in the development of guidelines for athletes who exercise and compete during the summer and early fall when temperatures are still high.
“To utilise masks in low or moderate intensity heat exercises is doable and safe,” stated Yoshihara.