Face Masks Improve Breathing by Increasing Lung Capacity
We are going to be – and should be – wearing masks for several months yet into 2021.
Instead of fighting against the public health and medical officials, people who refuse to wear masks should instead know that masks improve breathing capacity!
In fact, people pay a lot of money for tools that limit their breathing to improve their lung capacity and strength!
We can remind the knuckleheads in the gyms that wearing masks to cover their nose and mouth can actually make them fitter!
Asthma as Restrictive Breathing Practice
I’ve had asthma since I was a little, and recently figured out that Vocal Cord Dysfunction – essentially a closing of the vocal cords during inhalation – also affected my breathing capacity.
I can’t count how many races I’ve had to abandon when I couldn’t breath.
I’m learning to breathe differently to essentially bypass my vocal cords to bring the air into my belly.
If you’ve ever taken one of my yoga classes, we spend a lot of time practicing bringing air through our noses into our bellies.
Respiratory Training Devices
Training devices such as Powerbreathe can help improve the function of inspiratory muscles, increasing strength and endurance.
While the typical cotton face masks or surgical masks are not as restrictive as these specific training devices, they do provide breathing resistance.
The masks significantly reduce peak flows and lung air flow, requiring the lung muscles to work harder. Masks improve breathing capacity!
The study also showed that power decreased and discomfort increased with using the mask! No real surprise there, though.
Does a Mask Improve Breathing Function?
If you are a mouth and upper chest breather, the mask may not help much.
However, if you’ve been practicing belly breathing, the masks improve breathing by giving you a boost in endurance and lung muscle strength.
In one study, cyclist performance increased their performance by 44 percent while doing respiratory training.
Even if a mask gave you half of that increase, that’s a huge jump in performance!
Masks Improve Breathing Through Respiratory Muscle Training
A whole industry has sprung up about training your respiratory muscles to be more efficient.
The theory is that the more efficient your lungs function, the more oxygen is available to fuel your efforts.
PEZ Cycling News analyzed a study using a respiratory mask that inhibited both inhalation and exhalation during HIIT intervals.
The study showed some improvements in performance.
However, the analysis warned that there were a lot of variables in play to know precisely what works.
Masks That Simulate Altitude
Numerous companies are producing masks that purport to provide the benefits of training at altitude: increased red blood cells and oxygen efficiency.
However, the science doesn’t necessarily support the claims.
Instead the masks often work best as a respiratory training device!
Regardless, Wear a Mask in the Gym
Using a cloth mask over your nose and mouth will keep you and others safe while also allowing you to do a full workout.
You should, though, monitor your sensations, paying attention to potential dizziness or light-headedness, just in the rare case you are getting CO2 rebreathing, when you breath in CO2 you just exhaled.
There’s enough evidence that breathing resistance training provides a boost in endurance and inspiratory muscle strength.
Not only will you help yourself and others, your fitness will get a boost as well.
What are your questions? I had one social media response to this article that said I was “full of shit.”
But probably not.
What are your questions about how breathing fits into your endurance training?