by Arjun Walia, Collective Evolution:
- The Facts:A study published in June 2020 raises some health concerns about people wearing masks while exercising. It also calls into question the ability of masks to stop Covid-19.
- Reflect On:Are the mandatory orders that we are being given from government health authorities really the right thing to do? Why is there such a back-lash for questioning these measures? Should we not encourage questioning and discussion?
What Happened: A recent study published in the Journal Medical Hypothesis titled “Exercise with facemask; Are we handling a devil’s sword? – A physiological hypothesis” claims the following:
Exercising with facemasks may reduce available Oxygen and increase air trapping preventing substantial carbon dioxide exchange. The hypercapnic hypoxia may potentially increase acidic environment, cardiac overload, anaerobic metabolism and renal overload, which may substantially aggravate the underlying pathology of established chronic diseases. Further contrary to the earlier thought, no evidence exists to claim the facemasks during exercise offer additional protection from the droplet transfer of the virus. Hence, we recommend social distancing is better than facemasks during exercise and optimal utilization rather than exploitation of facemasks during exercise.
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According to the authors, exercising with facemasks induced as “a hypercapnic hypoxia environment [inadequate Oxygen (O2) and Carbon dioxide (CO2) exchange] . This acidic environment, both at the alveolar and blood vessels level, induces numerous physiological alterations when exercising with facemasks: 1) Metabolic shift; 2) cardiorespiratory stress; 3) excretory system altercations; 4) Immune mechanism; 5) Brain and nervous system.’
Further, poor saturation of haemoglobin would be anticipated due to increased partial pressure of CO2 at higher exercise intensity . Fig. 2 demonstrates the extreme right shift of the oxyhemoglobin dissociation curve, which would be higher than that expected during exercise. This acidic environment would unload O2 faster at the muscle level, but due to higher heart rate and reduced affinity at the alveolar junction, the partial pressure of O2 would substantially fall, creating a hypoxic environment for all vital organs.
In the figure below, the authors present a dissociation curve that “is showing the extreme right side shift with the carbon dioxide rebreathing (PaCO2) and inadequate available Oxygen (PAO2). Red dotted lines show the right shift of the curve due to exercise without masks (↑PaCO2, PH and temperature). Violet dotted lines show the extreme curve shift during exercise with masks (↑↑↑↑PaCO2, PH and temperature). (For interpretation of the references to colour in this figure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.)”
The authors also point out that “wearing of facemasks to prevent the community spread of the novel Covid-19 is itself debatable, considering the limited evidence on the subject matter. WHO recommends masks only for Covid-19 patients but the usage of masks is morally “exploited” among community individuals.”
This is important to recognize, the use of masks is indeed debatable. Right now, “fact-checkers” are going around the internet censoring and labelling any information that seems to question the efficacy of masks when it comes to Covid-19, or anything that contradicts the WHO organization. Why do voices looking at facts ad science, and providing another perspective get silenced?
The purpose of the paper cited in this article is to explore and question: Does the use of facemasks offer any benefit for ‘social exercisers’ during this pandemic; 2) Does exercising with facemasks alter normal physiological responses to exercise; 3) Does exercising with facemasks increase the risk of falling prey to Coronavirus; 4) How could “social exercisers” combat the physiological alteration?
Here’s another interesting claim by the researchers:
The study concludes:
Exercising with facemasks might increase pathophysiological risks of underlying chronic disease, especially cardiovascular and metabolic risks. Social exercisers are recommended to do low to moderate-intensity exercise, rather than vigorous exercise when they are wearing facemasks. We also recommend people with chronic diseases to exercise alone at home, under supervision when required, without the use of facemasks. Given the identified and hypothesized risks, social distancing and self-isolation appear to be better than wearing facemasks while exercising during this global crisis.
This isn’t the only paper that has called into question the use of a mask. This study, is one of multiple that conveys the idea that they might in fact increase one’s chance of contracting a respiratory infection.
According to a study published in BMJ Open in 2015,
This study is the first RCT of cloth masks, and the results caution against the use of cloth masks. This is an important finding to inform occupational health and safety. Moisture retention, reuse of cloth masks and poor filtration may result in increased risk of infection. Further research is needed to inform the widespread use of cloth masks globally. However, as a precautionary measure, cloth masks should not be recommended for HCWs, particularly in high-risk situations, and guidelines need to be updated.
We have provided the first clinical efficacy data of cloth masks, which suggest HCWs should not use cloth masks as protection against respiratory infection. Cloth masks resulted in significantly higher rates of infection than medical masks, and also performed worse than the control arm. The controls were HCWs who observed standard practice, which involved mask use in the majority, albeit with lower compliance than in the intervention arms. The control HCWs also used medical masks more often than cloth masks. When we analysed all mask-wearers including controls, the higher risk of cloth masks was seen for laboratory-confirmed respiratory viral infection.