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Article

Effects of Face Masks on Physical Performance and Physiological Response during a Submaximal Bicycle Ergometer Test

1
Medical Faculty, Institute of Occupational and Social Medicine and Health Services Research, University Hospital Tuebingen, 72074 Tuebingen, Germany
2
Medical Faculty, Institute for Clinical Epidemiology and Applied Biometry, University Hospital Tuebingen, 72076 Tuebingen, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Pantelis T. Nikolaidis and Paul B. Tchounwou
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(3), 1063; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19031063
Received: 29 October 2021 / Revised: 21 December 2021 / Accepted: 30 December 2021 / Published: 18 January 2022
(This article belongs to the Section Disease Prevention)
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic requires wearing face masks in many areas of our daily life; hence, the potential side effects of mask use are discussed. Therefore, the present study explores whether wearing a medical face mask (MedMask) affects physical working capacity (PWC). Secondary, the influence of a filtering facepiece mask with exhalation valve class 2 (FFP2exhal) and a cotton fabric mask (community mask) on PWC was also investigated. Furthermore, corresponding physiological and subjective responses when wearing face masks as well as a potential moderating role of subjects’ individual cardiorespiratory fitness and sex on face mask effects were analyzed. Thirty-nine subjects (20 males, 19 females) with different cardiorespiratory fitness levels participated in a standardized submaximal bicycle ergometer protocol using either a MedMask, FFP2exhal, community mask, or no mask (control) on four days, in randomized order. PWC130 and PWC150 as the mechanical load at the heart rates of 130 and 150 beats per minute were measured as well as transcutaneous carbon dioxide partial pressure, saturation of peripheral capillary oxygen, breathing frequency, blood pressure, perceived respiratory effort, and physical exhaustion. Using the MedMask did not lead to changes in PWC or physiological response compared to control. Neither appeared changes exceeding normal ranges when the FFP2exhal or community mask was worn. Perceived respiratory effort was up to one point higher (zero-to-ten Likert scale) when using face masks (p < 0.05) compared to control. Sex and cardiorespiratory fitness were not factors influencing the effects of the masks. The results of the present study provide reason to believe that wearing face masks for infection prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic does not pose relevant additional physical demands on the user although some more respiratory effort is required. View Full-Text
Keywords: physical working capacity; COVID-19; occupational health and safety; personal protective equipment physical working capacity; COVID-19; occupational health and safety; personal protective equipment
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MDPI and ACS Style

Steinhilber, B.; Seibt, R.; Gabriel, J.; Brountsou, J.; Muljono, M.; Downar, T.; Bär, M.; Bonsch, R.; Brandt, A.; Martus, P.; Rieger, M.A. Effects of Face Masks on Physical Performance and Physiological Response during a Submaximal Bicycle Ergometer Test. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19, 1063. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19031063

AMA Style

Steinhilber B, Seibt R, Gabriel J, Brountsou J, Muljono M, Downar T, Bär M, Bonsch R, Brandt A, Martus P, Rieger MA. Effects of Face Masks on Physical Performance and Physiological Response during a Submaximal Bicycle Ergometer Test. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2022; 19(3):1063. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19031063

Chicago/Turabian Style

Steinhilber, Benjamin, Robert Seibt, Julia Gabriel, Joulia Brountsou, Markus Muljono, Tomasz Downar, Mona Bär, Rosina Bonsch, Adrian Brandt, Peter Martus, and Monika A. Rieger. 2022. "Effects of Face Masks on Physical Performance and Physiological Response during a Submaximal Bicycle Ergometer Test" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 19, no. 3: 1063. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19031063

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