The use of masks has been the subject of much debate since the health crisis caused by COVID-19 began. The obligatory use of masks in the street, and especially their use while doing sports, has raised some doubts and even hoaxes. One of them claimed that the use of masks could lead to hypoxia, which we know is not true.
However, there were somewhat more legitimate doubts regarding its effect on our performance. New research, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, finds that wearing a mask during physical exercise would not affect our performance, at least in the case of people without health problems. In addition, it does not appear to influence muscle or blood oxygen levels. Not even during intense exercise.
The study was conducted with 14 participants, all of whom were healthy and physically active men and women. For the evaluation they used a mask with three different layers: the most suitable masks are those that contain an outer layer with water-repellent material, an intermediate layer that can be removed and an inner layer with antibacterial tissue.
In order to evaluate the results, the effect of the diet, the level of previous physical activity and the time of sleep during the 24 hours previous to the test were controlled. This consisted of a short warm-up on an exercise bike and then a progressive increase in intensity on the bike. The participants had to maintain a specific pedaling ratio while increasing the intensity. When they were unable to do so, the test was terminated.
This test was carried out three times: the first time they wore a surgical mask, the second a cloth mask – with three layers – and the third without any kind of mask. What they found was that there were no obvious differences in the participants’ performance based on whether or not they wore masks. In addition, they found no evidence of oxygenation levels of muscles and blood.
Of course, it must be taken into account that this is a preliminary study, carried out on a very small sample and with very specific characteristics: healthy and physically active young people. In any case, it does provide some security to people with these characteristics who are hesitant to exercise with a mask on.