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Face mask quandary for pandemic fitness

Wednesday April 14th 2021

Face masks have limited exercise capacity – just as people needed to get fitter during the pandemic, according to studies published today.

Both appear today (14 April) in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. In the first article, researchers show that wearing a face mask limits exercise performance and physical capacity.

Dr Simon Driver of Baylor Scott and White Health in Texas, USA, and colleagues measured the effects of a cloth face mask on treadmill performance. They tested 31 healthy young adults and found that mask wearing led to a significant reduction in maximum possible exercise time, oxygen consumption, and heart rate.

They report: "Compared with no mask, participants reported feeling increasingly short of breath and claustrophobic at higher exercise intensities while wearing a cloth face mask.

"Coaches, trainers and athletes should consider modifying the frequency, intensity, time and type of exercise when wearing a cloth face mask."

In the second study, Dr Robert Sallis, of Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, California, USA, and his team examined the impact of usual exercise level on COVID-19 hospitalisation rates, intensive care unit admissions and mortality.

They analysed information on 48,440 adult patients with COVID-19 who had provided details of their physical activity level in recent years.

Patients who had been consistently inactive had a significantly higher risk of each of the measured outcomes than those who had been consistently exercising.

"Consistently meeting physical activity guidelines was strongly associated with a reduced risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes among infected adults," the authors write. "We recommend efforts to promote physical activity be prioritised by public health agencies and incorporated into routine medical care."

Driver, S. et al. Effects of wearing a cloth face mask on performance, physiological and perceptual responses during a graded treadmill running exercise test. British Journal of Sports of Medicine 14 April 2021 doi: 10.1136/ bjsports-2020-103758

[abstract]

Sallis, R. et al. Physical inactivity is associated with a higher risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes: a study in 48 440 adult patients. British Journal of Sports of Medicine 14 April 2021 doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2021-104080

[abstract]

Tags: Fitness | Flu & Viruses | North America | Respiratory

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