I love to run outdoors. Not all year round, but when the weather is just right; neither too hot nor too cold. I know some people who do it virtually year-round, even in extreme weather, but I lack that masochistic streak. But in this (hopefully transient) period of Coronavirus (or Covid-19), one question has been popping up. Should you wear a mask when exercising outdoors?
Side note: For the purpose of this post running means just that, running, not jogging which is more leisurely.
One of the things I love about running outdoors is breathing of fresh outside air. Okay, someone might say it’s still polluted air, but that’s another topic. I just love the feeling of the air entering my nostrils and travelling deep down my lungs and then expelling carbon dioxide that will be used by the plants. I use my belly to breath deeply, as I was taught by my martial arts teacher.
While I also do run on the treadmill, especially during bad weather, I have to fight through monotony every minute of the exercise session.
Moreover, studies have shown that walking in nature is good for your brain and mood. I’m sure that applies to running too as walking and running are closely related.
A face mask is not exactly made for easy breathing, inside or outside. Still, we’re living are strange times, of Covid-19, social distancing, and face masks. So, to wear or not to wear a mask while exercising?
What if wearing a face mask itself becomes detrimental to your health and safety? A 26-year-old Wuhan man recently ended up in hospital after suffering a collapsed lung, after running while wearing a face mask. Other incidents suggesting high risk in wearing a mask while performing strenuous exercise have been reported.(For more see: New York Post.)
Do Not Wear A Mask During Strenuous Exercise!
It is one thing to wear a face mask while walking outside or on the treadmill. But it’s another thing altogether to wear one while performing strenuous exercise such as higher pace running and HIIT (high intensity interval training). With the former you might need to breath just a little harder. With the latter you will inevitably have to breath a lot harder. And that’s the problem.
A mask restricts airflow into your lungs, which can make you feel breathless and tired. This, in turn, will naturally make you want to breath even harder and deeper as you’re not taking in enough oxygen, and your breathing back in some of the toxic air you just breathed out. There’s a double recipe for trouble.
Also, a mask can get wet due to sweat when you are working out, adding to the discomfort you’re already experiencing. Don’t take this as medical or professional advice of any kind, but I personally will not wear a mask when running or doing any form of strenuous exercise.