Although I try and limit my social media, I find myself scrolling it most days. Do you? The good, the bad, and the ugly show up and we all work to minimize how much we consume from the various platforms. It can really be a time suck!
Yet, this week a little blue bird told me some really timely and useful info! That tiny blue bird was Twitter. And I thought you'd find this information helpful too.
A recent review article in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society came out about wearing facemasks while exercising. It stuck out to me because one of the co-authors, Dr. Mike Stickland, works in Edmonton (where I live) and he was completing his PhD at the University of Alberta when I was doing my Masters degree. At that time, his exercise science research focused on individuals with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and also some side work with firefighters. Although those two populations might seem disconnected, in fact, the considerations of airway restriction is a common thread they hold.
My delight this week was high as I knew Mike would deliver the timely information we need about the impact of wearing a facemasks while exercising. Knowing that I've been wearing a mask to exercise, I wanted to learn something too.
The article begins by describing the three major concerns about facemask wearing during exercising. They are:
#1 - Increased Work of Breathing - in a nutshell this is the energy needed for the body to inhale and exhale
#2 - Altered Pulmonary Gas Exchange - this includes the reduction of ventilation (inhalation of oxygen and exhalation of carbon dioxide) and re-breathing of exhaled carbon dioxide
#3 - Increased Dyspnea - meaning increased shortness of breath
The authors continue to acknowledge that the filtering protection by different types of facemasks and respirators (low resistance face coverings such as cloth and surgical masks, N95 respirators, industrial respirators such as SCBA and applied external resistors) is variable. They do not provide any guidance on what is the "best" facemask to wear, yet, they simply summarize the literature of what is known about facemasks to date.
Let me share what they found in the healthy population.
Wearing a facemask while exercising "may increase dyspnea but have small and often difficult to detect effects on work of breathing, blood gases, and other physiological parameters during physical activity, even with heavy/maximal exercise."
There is "no evidence to suggest that wearing facemasks during exercise disproportionately hinders younger and older individuals and significant sex-based differences are not expected."
The authors stipulate that special attention be taken for those living with chronic health conditions.
"Depending on the severity of underlying illness, individuals with cardiopulmonary disease are more likely than healthy individuals to experience increased exertional dyspnea with facemasks due to small increase in the resistance and re-inspiration of warmer and slightly enriched carbon dioxide air."
By the sounds of it, expect to have shortness of breath when exercising while wearing a facemask but this is likely not producing any physiologically alterations to be concerned about if you, yourself are healthy. It may be that one needs to adapt to wearing a mask while exercising. I know I sure have had to get use to it. I'm not going to the gym right now for exercise but when I was, I would wear my mask while exercising in public places. In my case, it did feel "easier" over time as I got use to it.
Very interesting! 😷
Now if you are one to read the literature, the article is open access so read away! See the source below.
I hope I've provided a brief but helpful summary of what the current research literature tells us about facemasks and exercise.
The benefit I also got was a refresh! While on Twitter this week, I also decluttered my feed and unfollowed old accounts and things I was no longer interested in. With that, Twitter provided a great feeling of letting go and learning something new. If you are on Twitter you can find me there!
Social media isn't all bad!?
Stay well and happy moving,
Source: Facemasks and the Cardiorespiratory Response to Physical Activity in Health and Disease