Any effect is very small, the team of US and Canadian researchers reported in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.
“There might be a perceived greater effort with activity, but the effects of wearing a mask on the work of breathing, on gases like oxygen and carbon dioxide in blood or other physiological parameters are small, often too small to be detected,” said Dr. Susan Hopkins, one of the researchers and professor of medicine and radiology at University of California San Diego School of Medicine.
People with severe cardiopulmonary disease may experience, “added resistance and/or minor changes in blood gases” that could affect exercise capacity, the researchers found.
“In such cases, these individuals might feel too uncomfortable to exercise, and that should be discussed with their doctor,” Hopkins said. “However, the fact that these individuals are at great risk should they contract Covid-19 must also be considered,” she added.
The study reviewed all known scientific literature published that examined the effects of various face masks and respirators on the respiratory system during physical activity. For healthy people, the effects on the respiratory system were minimal, regardless of the level of exercise or the type of mask.
Age and gender played no significant role among adults.
“There is no current evidence to support sex-based or age-based differences in the physiological responses to exercise while wearing a face mask,” they wrote.