Face masks safe to use during intense exercise, study suggests

Leah Sinclair
·2 min read

It is safe to wear face masks during intense exercise and doing so could reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmissions at indoor gyms, a new study has found.

Scientists from the Monzino Cardiology Centre (CCM) in Milan and the University of Milan tested the breathing rate, heart rate, oxygen levels and blood pressure of twelve individuals on exercise bikes, with and without masks.

According to the paper published in the European Respiratory Journal, wearing a face covering reduced the participants’ ability to perform vigorous exercise by about 10 per cent.

“This reduction is modest and, crucially, it does not suggest a risk to healthy people doing exercise in a face mask, even when they are working to their highest capacity,” said Dr Massimo Mapelli, a cardiologist at the CCM.

“While we wait for more people to be vaccinated against Covid-19, this finding could have practical implications in daily life, for example potentially making it safer to open indoor gyms”.

Scientists added that more research needs to be done to see if this would apply to people with heart or lung conditions.

The volunteers who participated in the study consisted of six men and six women with an average age of 40,

Each person did three rounds of exercise - one without wearing a protection mask, one with a surgical mask and with FFP2 mask. The thicker FFP2 mask resulted in a 10 per cent reduction in peak oxygen uptake and the surgical mask had a marginally smaller impact, researchers say.

Gyms are set to reopen in England on April 12 along with other indoor fitness facilities.

Current guidance says people do not need to wear a face covering while exercising but should at other times when using indoor leisure facilities.

The Government Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has been approached for comment.

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