Benjamin D. Ringham1, Kimberley L. Radtke1, Richard P. Mikat1, John P. Porcari1, Carl Foster1. The Effects of Face Mask Use during Self-Paced Running. 1Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, La Crosse, WI, USA.


Introduction: Amid the historic coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) global pandemic (i.e., COVID -19), public health authorities have recommended the use of facial coverings in order to mitigate the spread of this highly contagious pathogen. While coaches, self-training athletes, and the general public seek to continue their exercise programs in a safe and modified format, there is currently limited research available on the perceptual and physiological effects of facemask usage. This study was conducted to understand the physiological and perceptual effects produced during self-paced running while wearing a face mask. Methods: Eleven healthy college students performed three randomly sequenced 3200-meter self-paced running trials, each with a different masked condition (no-mask, surgical mask, and an N95 mask). Heart rate, Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE), Rating of Perceived Dyspnea (RPD), pace, and completion time were measured for each trial. Prior to testing, subjects completed a PAR-Q+, a COVID-19 screening questionnaire, and a subjective running history questionnaire that was used to document prior running experience. Collectively, the participants reported an average weekly running frequency of 2.9 ± 1.2 days/week and an average running distance of 3.3 ± 1.8 miles/workout. Alpha was set at p < .05 to achieve statistical significance. Results: No significant difference was found between masked conditions. Wearing a mask did not have a significant effect on pace, completion time, or heart rate. Session RPE was significantly higher in the N95 condition (14.6 ± 2.21) compared to the control (12.8 ± 1.99) condition. Both the surgical (2.4 ± 1.12) and N95 conditions (3.2 ± 1.29) had significantly higher perceived dyspnea scores compared to the control (1.4 ± 1.07) group. Conclusions: During self-paced running, healthy young college students tend to maintain their normal running pace and total completion time while compensating with higher RPE and dyspnea scores.