Ozarks Tonight: Going back to the gym and wearing a mask

Ozarks Tonight

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Gyms are reopening, and you might be thinking about going back to your gym or starting a new routine after being at home for weeks. But you might also be concerned about going back and sharing space and equipment with others. 

In this Ozarks Tonight, Jenifer Abreu talks to Dr. Rand McClain, the chief medical officer of LCR Health. 

Is it safe to go back to the gym? 

“There’s no way we will eliminate all of the risks,” Dr. Rand McClain said. 

He says you are going to increase your chances of contracting the virus because you are around more people and, if everyone is working out hard enough, they will be breathing harder, which increases the chance of particles from the breath going further. 

“People will be breathing heavily and from deep within the lungs, and that could increase the risk of transmission,” Dr. MClain explained. 

One of the easiest ways to transmit the virus, he says, is from hand to face, so wearing gloves and a mask could help with limiting that risk. But referring to the virus coming from the mouth, he explained there is a higher chance if someone is breathing hard, rather than just standing or talking, because more particles could fall out from their mouth. 

Should I wear a mask while working out? 

At this point, it’s common knowledge a mask is more to protect other people’s health than yours.

Cotton masks don’t prevent you from inhaling the virus, Dr. McClain explained, but they prevent particles from leaving your body from spilling out everywhere. 

A mask is especially important when you cough or sneeze, for example. Dr. McCLain says when you sneeze, you might send particles at 200 mph. And that’s the reason for the six feet distancing, the estimated distance those particles could travel. 

Dr. McClain says some studies involving surgeons wearing masks show they go into a state of lowered oxygen and higher-than-average carbon dioxide levels in the blood when wearing a mask for about an hour.  

“And that’ not good for the brain,” Dr. McClain said. 

So, is it dangerous to workout with a mask? 

“Any mask is going to lower your oxygen and increase your C02 level,” Dr. McClain said. 

“It’s not necessarily dangerous for the average person. It depends on the individual. Certainly, if someone has an ailment already, anything that prevents you from getting enough oxygen and not expelling carbon dioxide, can be an issue. But for the average person, it’s probably just going to be a damper on the workout,” Dr. MCClain explained.  

Dr. McClain said, telling people not to wear a mask at the gym could be considered selfish, but other solutions could be even more useful. For example, adequate ventilation, cleaning protocols hourly, and that work stations are far enough apart. 

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