In Portugal there are still no general guidelines for using the mask during sports training. Gyms and sports facilities have been closed since January 15, but physical exercise outdoors is still permitted individually. The question, however, is: should a mask be worn while running or on a bike ride? The P3 spoke to two experts to find an answer, and both believe that using the mask in amateur sports is not a problem for the athlete’s health.
According to Jaime Nina, a specialist in infectious diseases, doctor and professor at the Institute for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa (IHMT-UNL), “it has been proven that the masks disrupt breathing and reduce the oxygen supply to the blood”. Although there is no “rigid rule”, “logical”, there is no “inconvenience for any person jogging with a mask,” says the expert.
“The preliminary scientific evidence, which does not seem to be very clear, shows that we can actually exercise with a mask without harming our health,” says Rute Santos, coordinating researcher at the Center for Research in Physical Activity, Health and Health Free time at the University of Porto.
The same logic applies to cyclists. Equally important, according to Rute Santos, is to remember that anyone can be a means of transmitting the virus and therefore must protect others as well. “In the specific case of someone who rides a bicycle, they release droplets when they are alone. If you wear a mask (if you are infected without knowing it), the chances of catching someone are always lower.”
It is important to keep the safe distance
The researcher also reserves the right to advise the General Directorate of Health (DGS) regarding compliance with the safety distance of two meters. “We are not forbidden to take to the streets to exercise. We should try to do this preferably alone, with maximum safety and away from each other,” he claims. However, in children, they must be accompanied by an adult, and the use of the mask in the little ones requires even more study and reflection on the existing ones.
Jaime Nina also emphasizes the importance of interpersonal distance, especially with the reopening of exercise rooms on April 5 – the date from which outdoor physical activities can be carried out in groups of up to four people, as announced on the Thursday presentation of the decontamination plan . “In fitness studios, you have to pay attention to the size of the room and the number of people who are there. Social distance is very important, ”he says.
The infectious disease also serves as a reminder that “people cannot forget that the athlete doing a particular exercise has a faster respiratory rate and therefore the likelihood of inhaling the virus is proportional to the respiratory rate”. This means that the higher the breathing rate, the more likely the athlete is to become infected with a virus that is circulating in the air. For this reason, “from an infectious point of view, the masks greatly reduce the risk of transmission, especially when used by two people (each with their own),” he assures.
Jaime Nina also points out that the arrival of mild weather is a benefit for the new coronavirus to spread, as ultraviolet radiation “helps kill” the virus. However, the doctor regrets that Portugal did not take measures like Japan, Singapore or Australia that made the use of UV lamps in gyms mandatory as a prerequisite for reopening.
“It’s not instantaneous, but ultraviolet radiation kills the virus. The risk to a person exercising in a closed environment is the build-up of viruses that this radiation cannot build up, ”he says.