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Study says wearing a mask while running decreases performance

Research suggests you consider modifying the intensity and time of your run when wearing a cloth face mask

Over the past two years, wearing face masks when we are indoors or on public transit has become a part of our lives for safety against the spread of the virus. But should you wear a mask when running? New research published in the Journal of Sports Medicine says that wearing a cloth face mask significantly affects performance while running.

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The study was done on 31 healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 29 years. Participants completed two treadmill runs with and without a cloth face mask. The study followed the Bruce protocol test, which increases the difficulty of the treadmill’s incline and speed every three minutes. Researchers measured the participants’ blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation and perceived exertion at each stage. Participants’ running history was collected before the trial, and observations were collected during exercise immediately following their masked and unmaked tests.

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Results indicated that wearing a cloth face mask led to a minute and a half reduction in exercise time and a decrease in maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) by 29 per cent, which is attributed to perceived discomfort while running in a mask. Results also found that wearing a mask also elevates your heart rate, as there was an average of an 8.4 bpm difference between masked and unmasked. The results indicate that there are differences in perceived exertion between the different stages of the Bruce protocol as participants’ exercise intensity increased.

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Although you should put your health and safety first, wearing cloth face masks led to a reduction in exercise time and a decrease in VO2max when compared with no mask. Runners and coaches should consider modifying the intensity and duration of the workout when you have to wear a cloth face mask.