The Effects of Wearing a Gas Mask During Exercise

A gas mask is a piece of personal protective equipment (PPE) that covers the mouth and nose to filter airborne contaminants. It can be worn in a variety of environments including industrial and public use. Its primary purpose is to protect against battlefield concentrations of chemical and biological agents, toxic industrial gases and radioactive particulate matter.

The CDC recommends the use of respiratory protection for all people in contact with patients and the public. This includes persons in healthcare settings and community members who are helping to provide care or support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ideally, these individuals will be trained on how to fit and use the masks before entering the worksite. The training includes instructions on how to clear the mask and prevent contaminant build-up.

Previous studies indicate that mask wearing increases carbon dioxide production and reduces oxygen uptake during exercise. The latter is due to a decrease in oxygen delivery and/or increased peripheral vascular resistance. These effects are thought to contribute to the elevated blood pressure observed in some studies.

Our results showed that the FFP2 and SM both increased systolic blood pressure during exercise compared to non-masked conditions. However, the increase in blood pressure was not associated with a change in other hemodynamic, metabolic or subjective outcomes.

The authors note that future research should evaluate if higher carbon dioxide levels, increased cardiovascular stress or increased breathing resistance affect the metabolic response to exercise and other training induced adaptations. Additionally, researchers should examine whether the effects of the mask are affected by age, sex and body size.

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