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Wearing masks during workouts

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The ‘new normal’ requires everybody to wear a mask especially when they leave home. While people are still getting used to masks, some already find it uncomfortable. Many people experience nausea, dizziness and even claustrophobia. In such a backdrop, does wearing a mask during exercises carry a risk to one’s health? We asked Dr. Seevali Jayawickrama, Consultant in sports medicine and Director General of Sri Lanka Anti-doping Agency to explain and here are his observations. 


“People need to do exercises when it comes to wearing a mask, the volume and intensity matters,” he said. “If you are in a crowded place you are advised to wear a mask. Therefore the mask should fit properly, so that it covers your nose and mouth. When fitted, there’s no normal flow of oxygen to lungs. It will be even difficult for people with cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses. So you need to identify your needs according to your health and then proceed. When you are running, you will feel dizziness and shortness of breath. You may feel fatigued due to less oxygen reaching your muscles. It’s not like running without a mask.”


“In order to avoid these difficulties you can do your exercises without a mask if the place is not crowded,” he added. “But you need to be careful when coughing and sneezing. You need to protect yourself from others and others need to be protected from you. When wearing a mask you need to sanitize yourself first and be aware of the duration the mask is going to be worn. On the other hand there are homemade masks which could be washed and reused. But germs could easily enter your system through these masks. Therefore, it will be difficult for a first timer to adjust to all these changes.”


When asked about precautions that need to be taken at a gymnasium, Dr. Jayawickrama said that everybody must use their own sanitary care equipment. “Some sophisticated gymnasiums provide towels but it is not advisable to share towels in this situation. Towels will have sweat and other germs. Therefore, if it’s used by one person it should be washed well before passing onto another. It is also important to maintain social distancing.”


He further said that those lifting weights need to be careful when wearing masks because it might impact their breathing. “But always sanitize your hands and when you touch some equipment, make sure it’s sanitized before another person uses it. The owner of the gymnasium has to keep a constant check on the hygiene levels too.”
In conclusion he said that those with even a mild respiratory illness or conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease should be careful when wearing masks. “The best thing would be to do their workouts indoors, ideally at home.”

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