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Exercising With a Mask Safe, Does Not Impact Exercise Capacity

However, masks may impact how well individuals perceive tolerance to vigorous-to-peak intensity exercise

FRIDAY, July 2, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Exercising with a mask does not seem to limit actual exercise capacity, according to a research letter published online June 30 in JAMA Network Open.

Matthew Kampert, D.O., from the Cleveland Clinic, and colleagues assessed whether mask wearing during exercise stress testing (EST) to peak exhaustion provokes clinically indicated safety concerns. Twenty never-smoker, healthy, recreationally active adults (11 men) participated in treadmill EST wearing no mask, N95 mask, and cloth mask (with PM₂.₅ activated carbon filter).

The researchers found that performing EST with a mask yielded lower peak exercise oxygen uptake and heart rates versus no mask. No participant in any experimental condition showed evidence of a clinical indication requiring EST termination prior to voluntary cessation associated with the achievement of peak exhaustion. Furthermore, each condition resulted in peak exercise values that generally remained within normal limits. Mean exercise duration was longer without a mask (591 seconds versus 548 seconds with a cloth mask and 545 seconds with an N95 mask). Perceived breathing resistance was higher with either mask and feeling humid was more likely with either mask.

“Although it is possible that wearing a mask exerted a physical limitation on exercise capacity, the clinical relevance of such a possibility is not supported by these data,” the authors write.

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