How to exercise while wearing a mask

6 July 2021

UQ's Professor Jeff Coombes spoke to ABC Everyday about whether exercising with a mask is safe for everyone. 

COVID cases are cropping up again and many of us are facing the return of restrictions —including the requirement to mask up for certain kinds of exercise outside home.

You may not need to wear a mask if you're doing a strenuous workout or if you're exercising outside as opposed to the gym (if they're still open where you are).

The rules vary depending on location, so check the guidance from the health department in your state or territory before heading out for a workout while restrictions are in place.

As for how safe it is, what to expect and how to make sure your mask does the job? We asked the experts for their advice.

Is wearing a mask while exercising safe?

Jeff Coombes, a professor in clinical exercise physiology at the University of Queensland, says working out in a mask isn't necessarily safe for everyone.

If you have respiratory issues, cardiovascular concerns or experience anxiety, for example, seek advice about masked workouts from your doctor before starting one.

Professor Coombes explains the type of exercise you're doing, the intensity of it and the mask you choose will also have an impact on safety.

"Doing aerobic exercise is likely less safe for people with those conditions compared to strength exercises," he says.

"The higher the intensity, the more likely it is to be unsafe. [And] different types of masks allow different amounts of air to go in and out.

"Anything that decreases airflow in people with certain conditions can lead to unsafe [conditions]."

Feeling dizzy or lightheaded are warning signs: if you notice either sensation, Professor Coombes says you should stop and raise your mask to get more air into your body.

Even if you don't live with any of the aforementioned conditions, he says you should keep all of this in mind and monitor how you're feeling throughout your masked workout.

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