At the start of the coronavirus epidemic in the U.S., home workouts became increasingly popular as gyms across the country shuttered in an effort to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. One survey even found that some 24 percent of Americans plan to ditch the gym altogether even once the pandemic is considered over, citing safety concerns.
But with gyms gradually reopening in some places, and with fitness fanatics choosing to break a sweat outdoors in states that require face masks in public, some may be wondering: Is it safe to wear a face mask while exercising?
The World Health Organization (WHO) actually advises against wearing a face mask while working out, saying that doing so “may reduce the ability to breathe comfortably.”
“Sweat can make the mask become wet more quickly, which makes it difficult to breathe and promotes the growth of microorganisms. The important preventive measure during exercise is to maintain a physical distance of at least one meter [6 feet] from others,” it states.
Still, at least one popular gym chain, Planet Fitness, announced this week that anyone working out in its gyms will be required to wear a face mask at all times beginning Aug. 1. Company CEO Chris Rondeau said the policy will affect all of the company’s 1,450 locations in North America and Australia that are open to the public.
“Gyms are part of the solution and a key element of the health care delivery system, providing much-needed access for people to exercise and stay healthy,” he said. “Given our leadership position within the industry, we believe it’s our responsibility to further protect our members, employees, and communities so that we can all safely focus on our health, which is more important now than ever before.”
To find out more about the health effects of working out in a face mask, Fox News spoke with Jaclyn Fulop, a board-licensed physical therapist with over 10 years of clinical practice in sports medicine and orthopedic rehab and owner of Exchange Physical Therapy Group.
Fox News: Is working out in a face mask generally safe?
Jaclyn Fulop: Working out with a mask is generally safe, especially during low-impact exercises like walking or moderate weightlifting. Stationary exercises are more conducive to working out with a mask versus going for a run, running on a treadmill, or an intense bike ride.
Fox News: What happens to your body when you exercise with a face mask on?
Fulop: When you exercise with a mask on, you are ultimately decreasing the flow of air to your lungs, which can become dangerous if you overdo the workout or don’t take enough breaks. Essentially, you’re inhaling carbon dioxide due to heavy breaths getting trapped in the mask cloth preventing fresh air from getting in.
Fox News: What can people…