Fabric face masks may be dangerous when exercising

Published Jul 21, 2020


CAPE TOWN - According to WHO, ordinary fabric face masks may be dangerous for those exercising but there are safer alternatives.

As South Africa's lockdown eases allowing more forms of exercise with sport given the green-light, although, under strict guidelines, the use of face masks may prove to be dangerous for athletes.

It is advised to reduce the risk of infection at all costs with all encouraged to remain in the safety of their own homes, however, physical exercise regulations are easing with many taking to public spaces for their daily walk, jog or cycle rather than workouts at home.

Last month WHO insisted that people should not wear face masks while exercising, saying, "Sweat can make the mask become wet more quickly which makes it difficult to breathe and promotes the growth of microorganisms", however, with South Africa soon to hit its peak in infections, appearing in public without a face mask, exercising or not, could land you doing jail time of up to 6 months.

When exercising your breathing rate goes up as your body requires higher oxygen levels. Your muscles start producing lactic acid which is then converted into carbon dioxide which your body tries to get rid of by exhaling, however, the use of an incorrect mask may trap the CO2 which in-turn restricts your body's natural cognitive function causing you to breath faster or gasp for air.

Experts say that exercising should be fine if done with the correct mask but everyone needs to monitor themselves especially those with underlying cardiovascular or respiratory conditions.

It is advised to look for masks that are made of polyester which is a breathable material and a 'moisture-wicking' material - meaning it dries quick, reducing the saturation caused by sweat and moves perspiration away from the skin to an outer layer of the mask.

Such masks can be found at many outdoor and sports stores with many brand options such as K-way, Reebok and Nike.

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