Gas masks protect the wearers from inhaling airborne pollutants and toxic gases by covering the nose, mouth, and eyes. Some runners use gas masks while running as they claim that they help in improving performance. Unless you are in the military, there is no need to run using a gas mask. Gas masks cannot simulate altitude training, nor can they increase the VO2 max. People are not limited by the amount of air they inhale but the amount of oxygen their cardio systems can deliver to their muscles and how much of that air the muscles can absorb. Therefore, if you are preparing for a race and asking yourself, “is running with a gas mask beneficial or harmful” you should know that it won’t help you.
There are other types of masks known as altitude masks or training masks believed to elevate fitness. Many runners have adopted this trend of wearing these futuristic-looking gas masks.
Do Altitude Masks Work?
Altitude masks do not simulate altitude. Those who want to recreate summit training need to make their air thinner which means that the molecules should be further apart. Moreover, restricted airflow masks also don’t alter the air chemical composition, and you would need a hypoxic chamber to do that, which can’t be strapped on the face.
Training masks cut down on the amount of oxygen you inhale while exercising. When you use the mask during training, you force your heart and lungs to work harder. After removing the mask, your body uses oxygen more efficiently. Some people claim that altitude masks help them improve speed, endurance, and strength, although these claims are unproven.
Supposed Benefits Of Altitude Masks
Training masks are designed to help users recreate the conditions of high altitudes when they can’t physically go high above sea level. People believe that wearing masks during exercise helps them achieve the same benefits they might achieve if they train at these high altitudes. Training masks are different from gas masks. They feature adjustable channels or valves at the front for restricting the amount of oxygen the user is receiving and a valve where the air you exhale exits your mask.
Wearing the mask forces your body to adapt to the decreased oxygen intake, making your heart and lungs work harder. Taking the mask off gives you a big boost since your body is already adapted to the low oxygen levels and can use the oxygen more efficiently, thus helping you perform better.
Building Aerobic Capacity
Training masks helps runners achieve their VO2 max, although scientific research proves mixed results. According to a 2017 study, the masks showed no real benefit, while a 2016 study had demonstrated that they could help runners increase their VO2.
Building Lung Function
People say that training masks can help improve lung function, although research suggests they don’t. According to the 2016 study mentioned above, there is no difference in lung function between moderately trained adults who used ETMs and the control group that did not wear the masks.
Hypoxemia refers to the state of having deficient levels of oxygen in the blood. Training masks are expected to help the user achieve hypoxemia since their effect is the same as what you may experience at high altitudes.
Nonetheless, the 2016 study reveals that the masks are not effective altitude training equipment after all. Instead, they are more effective as respiratory muscle training equipment.
Training at high altitudes for some time makes the body constantly exposed to low levels of oxygen. Therefore, your body gets time to adapt even when you’re not working out. Wearing an altitude mask for just an hour-long exercise a few days a week, for instance, may not be adequate to use for comparison.
Is It Safe To Wear Training Masks?
Whether training masks are effective or not is still up for debate. However, it is essential to consider the safety factor of the masks. Some people who use them report some benefits, including improved lung capacity. They may also experience side effects, including light-headedness, dizziness, discomfort, fatigue, and anxiety.
The mask wearer may lose some degree of alertness or focus while working out because of the reduced oxygen intake. After wearing training masks, wearers need to know that they may hyperventilate or faint even without an underlying condition.
How To Use A Training Mask
Before you start using a training mask, you should consult with your doctor first. If the doctor gives you the go-ahead to train with the mask, you must ensure that you have a perfectly fitting mask. Avoid putting on the mask and immediately heading out for a run. Training masks should be worn around the house for some time as you try out other light housework activities. Although you may feel lightheaded at first due to breathing restrictions, you should take the necessary precautions.
Scale up your regular workouts before you add a mask to give your body time to adapt. Once you put on your mask, adjust its valves and choose a low level that doesn’t affect you gradually moving to higher levels. Never ignore how you are feeling. After putting on the mask, the discomfort may cause fainting; therefore, you should take out the mask on time. In case you start feeling lightheaded, remove it and give yourself some time to adjust. If the feeling continues, you can do away with the mask and work out without one. Your health should always come first.
There are numerous options for working up to more challenging routines that build over a more extended period. It is not a must you wear a training mask. Give your body a few weeks and see how it reacts before noticing any improvements in aerobic activity.
More people have embraced jogging or running with a mask. Training masks are now becoming a popular trend. Although the benefits of training masks may seem attractive, they may not deliver on your expectations. The evidence on training masks is not yet conclusive, although the mask may make your workout harder and provide an advantage for aerobic exercises.