Sunday, May 23, 2021

Instead Of Complaining About Wearing Face Masks..

He wore a mask, I didn't - posed lah ;) 
Almost daily during the circuit breaker (CB) period last year, my older boy and I went out to ride our bikes since there were hardly any cars on the road.  Most of the time we had our cloth face masks on. Needless to say, we found riding uphill more difficult when having them on. 

Made it to the top of Mt. Faber
Newly published research backs this up. Researchers had 28 young (18 to 29 years) and healthy participants perform 2 maximal exercise tests on a treadmill. One with and one without a cloth face mask.

Each participant runs to complete exhaustion as the treadmill speed and incline is increased every 3 minutes and the time to exhaustion is recorded. This is used to estimate VO2 max levels. Heart rate, blood pressure, rate of perceived exertion and the participant's perceptions of wearing a face mask while running were also recorded.

Key findings were that cloth face masks reduced run time to exhaustion by 14 percent and VO2 max by 29 percent. With masks on, the participants felt more short of breath and claustrophobic at higher exercise intensities compared to not wearing masks. Blood oxygenation levels (Sp O2 levels) were also lower when cloth face masks were worn. The reduced levels of oxygen in the blood show a definite physiological effect. 

The more effective the mask in filtration capacity (the more protection for the wearer), the more it will affect exercise performance. Take home message is that using a mask during exercise does make it a lot harder. The researchers recommend that exercise time, frequency and especially intensity be modified when wearing a cloth face mask.

The researchers also cautioned that their findings of impaired performance with cloth face masks may be in part due to the perceived discomfort. Meaning, the participants were less motivated to keep running at higher treadmill speed and incline

My racing days are long gone, but if I were still training and competing, I'll probably don a cloth face mask while training (sometimes) to up the intensity a few notches so that when I race without a cloth face mask, I'll be hard to beat. That's just like respiratory muscle training. But that is just me. Please do not take this as training advice! 


Driver S, Reynolds M, Brown K et al (2021). Effects Of Wearing A Cloth Face Mask On Performance, Physiological And Perceptual Responses During a Graded Treadmill Running Exercise Test. BJSM. epub first 13 April 2021. DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2020-103758.

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