Nepal | July 12, 2020

Exercising with face mask on: A big NO!

DR AMIR NEUPANE
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Kathmandu, June 28

With the easing of the coronavirus-lockdown, more people are up and about, especially in the morning and evening either walking or jogging with face masks on.

This ‘phenomenon’, however, is not actually considered to be wise as it might lead to health hazards.

Avoid exercising with face mask on

It is not recommended to wear a face mask while exercising as a face mask restricts the flow of air into our lungs which results in shortness of breath and extreme tiredness.

Face masks are to be worn following physical distancing and while adhering to safety norms, and not while exercising.

What if we have face masks on while exercising?

We inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Wearing face masks while exercising can trap high levels of carbon dioxide causing —
• Headaches
• Vertigo
• Seizures
• Suffocation
• Difficulty concentrating
• Drowsiness
• Unconsciousness
• Increased heart rate
• Difficulty in hearing
• Blurry vision; and
• Muscle tremors

All of the above symptoms take place primarily due to lack of air. This is called hypercapnia, which is caused by rebreathing your own exhaled carbon dioxide, and this could happen if you wear face mask worn over long durations.

Who shouldn’t use face mask while exercising?

If you have an underlying health problem that requires exercising, then there are ways in which you can continue your fitness schedule without using face masks. People suffering from asthma, heart diseases, high blood pressure and diabetes, among others can practise social distancing and exercises without face masks.

Also, you should not push your limit if you are suffering from the above-listed diseases.

When not to use a face mask

• Driving/ Riding alone
• At home
• When you are in self-isolation

How long should one use a face mask?

As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), it is recommended you do not cover your nose and mouth for more than 20 minutes at a time. You can remove it and inhale fresh air in an isolated area.

Face masks are to be used only in crowded places. This will ensure that you are getting adequate amount of oxygen.

Mak sure you’re getting enough oxygen

Your lungs inhale oxygen which is vital for your very survival.

The lungs also exhale carbon dioxide. If carbon dioxide is inhaled, it could be life-threatening. So, what matters the most is how much oxygen you are able to inhale and what level is good. If you are a health-oriented person, consider using a pulse oximeter to detect the levels of oxygen you intake. The other option is that you simply look at your body’s reaction and decide. If you have symptoms like lightheadedness, shortness of breath, numbness or tingling in your body, it would mean that your lungs are not getting enough oxygen to be transferred to other parts of your body.

Using face masks while exercising is a bad idea; it is recommended that you stay quarantined at home and exercise.

Dangers of wearing face masks for too long

Driver passes out: A driver in an SUV crashed into a pole in New Jersey on April 23. He claimed the collision occurred due to his wearing N95 mask for too long. The case was medically evaluated and reported he had passed out due to insufficient oxygen and intake of higher levels of carbon dioxide over longer periods.

Man goes jogging with face mask, suffers damaged lungs: A 26-year-old man from Wuhan, China complained of chest pain and was taken to a nearby hospital where he was diagnosed with lungs collapse due to jogging with a face mask on. The victim claimed that he wanted to push his workout schedule harder and jogged for a continuous six kilometres unlike his three-kilometre jogging routine.

He also stated he experienced shortness of breath, but still pushed his limits thinking that it was natural.

Dr Neupane, an expert in Musculoskeletal Disorder and Sports Medicine, is the Managing Director of Aahas Health Care


A version of this article appears in e-paper on June 28, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.


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