A Saskatoon gym owner says he doesn’t plan on implementing a mandatory face mask policy at his facility unless it is mandated by the province.
Pat Mallough, who runs Iron Works Gym, said as of right now, masks are required when people first enter and walk through the common areas, but that once they begin their workout, they can choose whether or not to wear a mask.
“A lot of people went without then they put them on, they didn’t like it at first now they wear them all the time,” he told CTV News.
Mallough said he’s tried working out with a mask before but that he found it uncomfortable.
“I wore one and I worked out for about an hour and I got a big headache. So, it restricted my breathing and I didn’t train as hard, not like I used to.”
He noted that it’s possible he wasn’t wearing the right type of mask for exercising.
A small study at the University of Saskatchewan suggests face masks do not hinder breathing for healthy people, even during vigorous exercise.
“They were still getting adequate levels of oxygen into their body, and their exercise performance was completely normal,” said Phil Chilibeck, one of the researchers and a kinesiology professor at the U of S.
Chilibeck and his team measured oxygen levels in the blood and muscles of seven women and seven men who all have some level of experience with cycling.
Some wore surgical masks while others had cloth masks or no mask at all.
Participants were required to do a a brief warm-up on a stationary bike followed by a progressive increase in the intensity of the exercise, Chilibeck said.
The findings call into question previous public health advice offered by institutions such as the World Health Organization that masks shouldn’t be worn during exercise.
Participant and pro cycler Keely Shaw said the results of the study surprised her.
“As much as it sucks and it's not very comfortable, nobody rated it as feeling any harder or easier regardless of what condition they're in,” she said.
Under the mandatory mask policy in Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert being implemented on Friday, people working out a gym, ice rink or recreational space are exempt. However, Chilibeck recommends people still wear a mask to limit the spread of germs and help keep gyms open.
“I think people can exercise intensely while wearing a face mask. And I just think a gym environment where you’re breathing hard, it’s just a good environment that you’re susceptible to virus transmission,” Chilibeck said.
Mallough said safety is about far more than just wearing a mask. He points to a system he created at his gym where members must sanitize their hands and pick up a spray bottle and towel to clean the equipment with. He adds that this is also a way for him to track how many people are in the gym at a time.
“As long as we’re being smart - common sense, clean your hands, clean your equipment, distance yourself, we’re going to be okay.”