Comparison of face mask effects on cardiorespiratory responses between physically active and sedentary individuals.

Jiang S; Department of Physical Education, Health and Exercise Science Laboratory, Institute of Sports Science, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea.
Li X; Seo JW; Ahn S; Sung Y; Jamrasi P;Song W

The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness [J Sports Med Phys Fitness] 2024 Jun 06.
Date of Electronic Publication: 2024 Jun 06.

Background: Alterations caused by face masks on physiological responses vary among different population groups. This study aimed to investigate whether physically active and sedentary individuals respond differently to face mask use during exercise.
Methods: Sixteen healthy college students were divided into two groups: Physically active group (N.=10; 26.50±2.80 years) and Sedentary group (N.=6; 26.33±2.81 years). They performed three maximal cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET)s following the Bruce protocol: one without a face mask (NON), one with a surgical mask (SUR) and one with a cloth mask (CLO). Cardiorespiratory parameters and heart rate were monitored continuously during the test. Blood pressure, oxygen saturation and lactate level were measured immediately before and after exertion.
Results: Significant differences were found between the Physically active and the Sedentary group in peak VO<inf>2</inf> (VO<inf>2peak</inf>) in NON (P=0.030). However, this difference disappeared when the face masks were used. Furthermore, VO<inf>2</inf>/kg (P=0.002) and METs (P=0.002) decreased significantly at the respiratory compensation point (RCP) only in the Physically active group with face masks. No significant differences were found between the two groups for exercise time, lactate level and dyspnea (P>0.05).
Conclusions: The decrease in exercise tolerance and cardiorespiratory responses, particularly VO<inf>2peak</inf>, due to face mask use was greater in physically active individuals compared to sedentary individuals. Population group characteristics should be considered when adapting face masks to daily life.