Physical Therapy

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International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

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There is limited research examining the perception of exertion during exercise while wearing a facemask. The current study examined if mask usage during moderate or vigorous physical activity (MVPA) changed the self-reported perception of exertion. Seventy-two adults (18 years and older) who were physically active before the COVID-19 pandemic completed a questionnaire that assessed exercise habits and perceptions of mask wearing during MVPA. Participants reported their ratings of perceived exertion (RPE, on a scale of 1–10) while exercising. Wearing a mask resulted in higher RPE vs. no mask during both vigorous (8.4 ± 0.2 vs. 7.4 ± 0.1; p < 0.001) and moderate PA (6.6 ± 0.2 vs. 5.6 ± 0.2; p < 0.001). Qualitative analysis revealed mostly negative perceptions of exercising while wearing a mask, including respiratory issues, detriments to cardiovascular endurance, and general discomfort. A total of 40% of participants reported that they stopped exercising in an indoor/public setting because of a mask mandate in their region. Participants reported participating in less vigorous PA (4.7 ± 0.4 vs. 4.0 ± 0.4 h/week; p = 0.046), but not less moderate PA (3.3 ± 0.3 vs. 3.0 ± 0.3 h/week; p = 0.443) pre vs. during the pandemic. Our study suggests that facemask usage during MVPA causes an increase in RPE and may be one reason for a decrease in vigorous PA during the COVID-19 pandemic.


facemask, pandemic, COVID-19, face covering, perceived exertion, physical activity




© 2022 by the authors.

Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (


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