13 Aug 2020: Should you be wearing face masks while running or exercising?
Through seven months of the coronavirus pandemic, our leaders have repeatedly told us to embrace the reality and make health precautions the norm, particularly wearing face masks.
However, to adopt face masks into our day-to-day lives, we must find the answers to a few questions.
As the government has allowed gyms to reopen, here's what you should know about running/exercising with face masks on.
Important instructions: Wearing a face mask
If you do not feel any difference in breathing after you have put a face mask on, chances are, you have not worn it correctly.
The correct way to wear a mask is for it to completely cover your nose and mouth. The wearer must also ensure that the mask is fitted to the bridge of the nose and there are no air gaps.
Issues: Experts caution against intense workouts with face masks
While working out, the body tries to pull in more air to get more oxygen. However, with face masks on, this becomes difficult.
Experts agree that high-intensity running should be done with extreme caution when face masks are involved. They warn that proceeding to work out intensely while wearing face masks could lead to fainting, severe dyspnea (difficulty breathing), or pneumothorax (collapsed lung).
Quote: Masks without valves change blood-gas equation, says pulmonologist
Dr. Ravi Shekhar Jha—senior consultant and head of the department, pulmonology, Fortis Escorts Faridabad—told The Indian Express, "A mask, which is not valved, changes the blood-gas equation, and it leads to a special phenomenon called PEEP (Positive End-Expiratory Pressure)."
He added, "PEEP may lead to pneumothorax, especially when there is too much strain on lungs, like when we are running, or doing strenuous exercise."
Fact: 'Breathing against resistance could lead to severe dyspnea'
Dr. Akanksha Saxena—an ENT specialist—told NewsBytes, "When you're trying to breathe against resistance, your body tries to flush fluid into your alveoli and you start drowning in your own body fluids." This may lead to severe dyspnea or cough with pink frothy sputum, she said.
Do's: What should you do?
If you cannot avoid a high-intensity workout, most experts say that you should exercise while following the norms of physical distancing. Work out in areas where there is less or no crowd. Run solo and if your running route stays crowded, pick a different one.
Dr. Saxena suggested wearing a loose-fitting surgical mask, while following physical distancing, and avoiding talking to people.
Fact: 'Prefer stationary jogging at home without mask'
Dr. Animesh Arya—senior consultant, respiratory medicine, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute—told TIE, "If at all one needs to jog or run, prefer stationary jogging at home near the window, in the garden, balcony or lawn without a mask."
Quote: Fitness trainer advises low-intensity workouts
Sameeran Chetia, a certified fitness trainer, advised that people should do less intense workouts instead.
Chetia told TIE, "If people want to wear a mask while running, then I would suggest they do low-intensity exercises."
Chetia added, "They can opt for walking, brisk walking or slow jogging which will put less strain on their breathing. I personally wouldn't recommend high-intensity running."
Government advisory: What do government guidelines say?
The Health Ministry's guidelines for gyms state that face masks are mandatory, but if people face difficulty breathing, visors may be used.
The advisory also mentioned that people with under 95% oxygen saturation should not be allowed to exercise. If people face difficulty breathing, they must immediately stop exercising, and check their oxygen saturation using pulse oximeters.
Wherever possible, outdoor spaces must be utilized.