The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rolled out some guidelines for exercising, and this week NBC News explained them for us. Among the most notable guidelines, as NBC emphasized, is the charge to wear a mask while you’re exercising inside at the gym.
Based on a study of a gym-related COVID-19 breakout in Chicago in the late summer of 2020, the CDC concluded, “To reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission in exercise facilities, employees and patrons should wear a mask, even during high-intensity activities (10) while ≥6 ft apart.”
Follow the Science?
Considering many careful CDC rule-followers pride themselves on “following the science,” it’s worth noting that this particular guideline doesn’t seem to be in accord with science at all. Several studies have shown that wearing a mask during strenuous physical activity takes quite a toll on the body.
One study, published in Clinical Research in Cardiology, revealed that “cardiopulmonary exercise capacity and comfort are reduced by surgical masks and highly impaired by FFP2/N95 face masks in healthy individuals.”
The study measured the pulmonary function parameters and comfort of 12 active and healthy men when they performed three exertion tests, one without a mask, one with a surgical mask, and the third with an N95 mask.
“Medical face masks have a marked negative impact on cardiopulmonary capacity that significantly impairs strenuous physical and occupational activities,” the study results concluded. “In addition, medical masks significantly impair the quality of life of their wearer. These effects have to be considered versus the potential protective effects of face masks on viral transmissions.”
A different study published in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Sports Medicine tracked the heart rate of 23 healthy people from varied sporting backgrounds while they walked on a treadmill for six minutes at four kilometers per hour, once with surgical masks and once without.
“The laboratory study to investigate the physiological effect of wearing a facemask found that it significantly elevated heart rate and perceived exertion,” the study concluded. “Those participating in exercise need to be aware that facemasks increase the physiological burden of the body, especially in those with multiple underlying comorbidities.”
Even the World Health Organization made a point last year to rebuke the conventional wisdom that people should wear masks while working out, including it on the WHO’s “Mythbusters” page. “FACT: People should NOT wear masks while exercising,” the WHO said, noting that masks can “reduce the ability to breathe comfortably.”
While people should still maintain social distancing while exercising, the WHO said that sweat not only can saturate people’s masks, making it harder to breathe, but it also “promotes the growth of microorganisms.”
Absurd Mask Extremes
However anti-science the new CDC guidelines might be, NCB News didn’t just report the changes. It also talked to a few so-called experts and offered us some coronavirusey fitness suggestions of its own — and they’re absurd.
Jessica Steier and Andrea Love, who host “The Unbiased Science Podcast,” “explained that when you exercise, you have more forceful and rapid respiration. This means you’re exhaling and inhaling a larger volume of air,” said NBC News. “In turn, the relative risk of exposure to Covid droplets may be increased compared to standing still in the same space. And physical distancing alone won’t protect you.”
It’s immediately clear that neither Steier, Love, nor anybody in the NBC editorial chain exercises — or at least they’re hoping their readers don’t, passing off these laughable recommendations with a straight face. Of course you inhale and exhale “a larger volume of air” when you’re working out. That’s one of the reasons wearing a mask while you’re doing it is so zany.
The same thing goes for the white coats at the CDC, who say, “Remove your mask if it gets moist from sweat and replace it with a clean mask while exercising. Have more than one mask on hand so that you can easily replace a moist mask with a dry one.” Have they ever been to the gym? In order to replace your mask every time sweat “moistens” it, you’d better bring a family value pack of surgical masks if you want to get through one full cardio circuit.
It gets better. One of NBC News’s exercise tips is: “It’s best to avoid the showers if possible, since you can’t get masks wet — otherwise they lose their efficacy. If you need to shower at the gym, shower as quickly as possible and only remove your mask when your face and head is going to get wet.”
When we advise wearing a mask in the shower, we approach the “glory holes” masked sex level of insanity.
Public Health Seattle spent weeks shaming you from visiting grandma for Thanksgiving, claiming you'd kill her if you did. Yet they also posted COVID sex advice online telling you to set up a homemade glory hole with a shower curtain. You can't make this up.https://t.co/nMM9nwWvpk
— Jason Rantz on KTTH Radio (@jasonrantz) December 8, 2020
Beyond ignoring the science and even beyond the crazy recommendations themselves, however, the worst part of the NBC article is the way this type of “journalism” serves to heighten our pandemic response to a foolish degree. Capitalizing on people’s fear and their impulse to control the behavior of others, NBC offers these suggestions that take the absurd CDC guidelines and crank them up to a ridiculous extreme.
This serves to shape public opinion in an unhelpful way, which not only exacerbates already-restrictive mitigation measures when lawmakers and bureaucrats eat it up, but it ramps up social pressure where none is due. The last thing we need is more mask Karens disrupting our cardio routines — you know, the ones we perform to blow off steam from the infuriating COVID Karens.