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Unmasking The Facts

With gyms set to reopen this week in England, and with Scotland and Wales to follow, many of us are itching to get back to some form of social workout.


No doubt however, things have changed when it comes to visiting the gym.  As with the majority of our activities, we’re having to think more about where we go, when we go, what we need to bring, and so forth.  Not least, one of the questions that keeps cropping up, particularly in relation to the gym, is should I be wearing a mask?


Opinions differ here, and guidelines are a little foggy to say the least.  Regulations in England ‘encourage’ mask wearing in communal areas of the gym.  This extends to reception or waiting areas, and changing rooms.  In particular, those areas where social distancing may not be so easy.  The question a lot of people are asking however, is what about when exercising? 


As it stands, it is not compulsory to wear a mask when exercising.  Guidelines from The World Health Organisation have in fact stated that people should not wear masks whilst exercising.  This is due to both a potential reduction in the ability to breathe, and the accumulation of sweat which they state could result in difficulty breathing and the growth of microorganisms. 


This view has been brought into question however, with many stating that masks do not impede breathing, or at least that the impact is minimal for a so called ‘healthy’ person with no respiratory issues.  There are also masks designed for exercising which help mitigate these issues, being lightweight and anti-microbial, such as our recommended brand, D’AIRE, whose masks have seamless 4-way stretch cotton for ultimate comfort alongside its anti-viral protection technology. 


One of the most recent studies into mask wearing when exercising was published just last month in the European Respiratory Journal.  In conjunction with the University Of Milan, the study looked at breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and performance whilst exercising both with and without masks.  Results showed that wearing a face mask had a minimal effect, only around 10%, on performance.  This was likely caused by it simply being a little more difficult to breathe in a mask.  Dr Mapelli, a cardiologist involved in the study has said, "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”.  This replicated the results of an earlier September 2020 study carried out in Israel. So, whilst there may be some effects, these are considered minor, and shouldn’t cause much of an issue for the average person.

So where does that leave us? Whilst masks should be used in communal spaces, it seems it’s a personal choice when it comes to working out.  As with any exercise, masked or un-masked, if you feel dizzy or uncomfortably short of breath, take a break.  It may also be worth carrying a spare mask should the one you’re wearing become too sweaty. 

Finally, if you still have questions or concerns, it may be worth speaking to your gym for advice, and to find out what other precautions they have in place to keep you safe.  Ultimately, it’s down to whatever makes you, the gym goer, as comfortable and confident as you can be in getting back to the gym once again.