Is It Unhealthy To Train In Masks?
Masks and face-coverings have been promoted and even mandated in the USA and all over the world to help control the spread of Covid19 despite there being little to no data directly showing their effectiveness in doing so. (1) However, the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) and other “experts” recommend their use, so some states and counties have mandated them. The scope of this article isn’t to state whether I am pro or against mask mandates, but to address a question I get asked a lot, “Is it safe to train in masks?”
Luckily, before we even have a direct, controlled study on if masks prevent the spread of Covid19, the good folks at the Scandanavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports published a darn-good study on this, and the result is conclusive enough for me. Training in masks, while annoying, will not harm you and will minimally effect performance. (2)
In a nutshell, researchers took 16 healthy young males, strapped either an N95 mask or a surgical mask on them, and had them exercise. It was a multiple crossover study meaning that they tested both in and not in the masks chosen. I know, 16 isn’t a very large group and it was limited to healthy, young males, but we will work with what we are given.
With strenuous exercise, carbon dioxide partial pressure was increased, so I think the next step would be to evaluate if this is a bigger issue than the study discussion addressed. But, for standard weight training, I am not sure if this would be an issue.
The reason that I wrote this article is because a lot of people have expressed to me that they cannot go to the gym due to masks being unhealthy. While you might think masks are useless, tyrannical or silly, the current science supports that masks are not detrimental and in my opinion, the net positive of weight training and exercising in general far outweighs the inconvenience of mask-wearing.
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2) Return to training in the COVID‐19 era: The physiological effects of face masks during exercise: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/sms.13832