A new study published in the “Annals of the American Thoracic Society” indicates that wearing a face mask does not diminish lung function. The team of Canadian and American researchers that worked on the study discovered that while individuals may experience an increase in shortness of breath when wearing a face mask, there was no factual evidence showing that masks decreased lung function. This applies even when masks are worn during heavy exercise.
Face mask prevalence has grown since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and has been touted as a way to effectively reduce the spread of the virus. Face masks limit contagion by reducing aerosols and respiratory droplets that are released into the air when an individual coughs, sneezes, laughs, talks or even breathes.
Susan Hopkins, a professor of medicine and radiology at the San Diego School of Medicine, University of California, and the study’s first author explained that while there may be a perceived greater effort with regard to activity, the effects of wearing a face mask on gases, such as CO2 and oxygen, and breathing as well as other physiological parameters are too small to even be detected.
The professor, who specializes in the study of lungs under stress and exercise physiology, added that there was no evidence that supported differences by age or sex in physiological responses to exercise with a face mask on.
However, the authors note that the only exception to this rule are people with severe cardiopulmonary disease. This is because any slight changes in blood gases or additional resistance to breathing could cause shortness of breath that would influence exercise capacity. In cases like this, individuals may feel too uncomfortable to exercise. If this happens, a person should consult their doctor. These individuals were found to be at great risk if they were to contract the coronavirus.
The researchers arrived at their findings after reviewing all scientific literature that assessed the effects of various respiratory loading devices and face masks on perceptual and physiological responses to physical activity. No matter the degree of exercise or the type of face mask that was worn, the effects on a person’s physiology were minimal. The researchers found that age had no significant role in influencing adults to wear masks and gender differences were insignificant.
Science has shown that, while wearing a mask may be uncomfortable, it has minor effects on cardiopulmonary function, especially in healthy people. So you can stop making excuses and wear the mask.
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