Should You Believe WhatsApp Forwards Saying Masks Can Kill You? Experts Answer

In what can only be described as a rather unfortunate incident, an automobile sector executive lost his life last week due to a massive cardiac arrest. A WhatsApp message quickly began doing the rounds, warning runners and joggers to stay away from wearing masks while indulging in such exercises.

The message ends with the line – ‘Those who have been doing outdoor exercise with masks on, this is a wake-up call.’

While this has been a debate that had raged on since the beginning of this lockdown period, we try to help you make an informed decision on whether or not to exercise with the masks.

1. According to Dr Radhika Bharath, a Chennai-based physiotherapist, who is also a marathon runner and fitness instructor, it is important to wear a mask while running, but the key is to take it slow. She says, “If you are an athlete or a regular runner you should not push your body beyond your regular pace. On the days you are going to work out wearing a mask, it is best to run at a pace slower than your usual.”

“Remember, that your heart and lungs are overworking, so avoid training for endurance. But if you miss endurance training, find a space where you can maintain 6 ft distance with others, so you can lower your mask and run.”

girl exercising wearing mask
Be mindful when you exercise outdoors.

2. Dr Joyeta Basu, a General Physician, based in Gurugram in a tweet has said, “There is a WA (Whatsapp) forward going around about the death of an executive after a run which was linked to him wearing a mask. Wearing a mask will not cause a cardiac episode or hypoxia. This seems to be a case of ‘Sudden Cardiac Death’ or SCD. Now go Google. WEAR A MASK. Save yourself.”

There is a WA forward going around about the death of an executive after a run which was linked to him wearing a mask .Wearing a mask will not cause a cardiac episode or hypoxia.
This seems to be case of Sudden Cardiac Death/SCD.Now go google.
WEAR A MASK . Save yourself. https://t.co/1tGIhKSduS

— Joey (@DrJoyeeta) July 30, 2020

3. While these are the opinions of doctors, the World Health Organisation (WHO) actually advises against wearing a facemask while working out, saying that doing so ‘may reduce the ability to breathe comfortably.’

“Sweat can make the mask become wet more quickly, which makes it difficult to breathe and promotes the growth of microorganisms. The important preventive measure during exercise is to maintain a physical distance of at least one meter [6 feet] from others.”

4. Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare also took to Twitter to inform people about not wearing masks when exercising, as they may reduce the ability to breathe comfortably.

Can people wear #Masks while exercising?

People should NOT wear masks when exercising, as masks may reduce the ability to breathe comfortably.#IndiaFightsCorona @MoHFW_INDIA pic.twitter.com/5RV0vWvEcP

— Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) July 16, 2020

While the jury is out on whether or not wearing a mask may help the person exercising breathe better, there is no doubt that in narrow pathways, closed spaces, and around other people, not wearing a mask can be harmful to you, and to others.
It is every individual’s responsibility to curb the spread of the virus.

If you are in a fully open space with very few people present, you may choose to remove your mask while exercising. But do keep it on, as a responsible citizen, if you find other people around you.

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