The COVID-19 pandemic prompted the expectation of facemasks in fitness facilities during exercise. However, the physiological and perceptual responses of wearing a facemask during exercise has not been fully investigated. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of facemasks on selected physiological and subjective variables during exercise.  Using a crossover design, males (n =8) and females (n=7) and were randomly assigned to (1) a surgical facemask, (2) a cloth face mask, and (3) no mask and completed Bruce Protocol maximal graded treadmill tests 48 hrs apart. Collected data included heart rate (HR), oxyhemoglobin saturation (SpO2), rating of perceived dyspnea (DYS), perceived rate of exertion (RPE) and time to exhaustion (TTE). No significant (p>0.05) differences were found for HR or SpO2 at any of the treadmill stages. DYS was higher with both masks compared to no mask, but only significant (p < 0.05) between the cloth and no mask conditions in stages 2 and 3. RPE was greater in both mask conditions compared to no masks, but only significantly greater between the cloth mask and no mask conditions in stage 3. No significant differences were found for TTE among the conditions. Wearing face masks during exercise and has little effect on HR, SpO2, or TTE. However, facemasks may negatively influence DYS and RPE contributing to feelings of exhaustion. Participants should be made aware that the discomfort of wearing a mask during exercise will not hamper performance.


Face mask, Exercise, Heart rate, Treadmill,


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