(WSVN) - In South Florida, if you’re hitting the gym, you don’t have a choice. Working out with a mask is mandatory, but is it safe? Once again, the Nightteam’s Kevin Ozebek with tonight’s 7 Investigates.

These are trying times, but doctors say being fit is more important than ever.

Dr. Michael Rosselli, orthopedic: “Working out does improve your immune response to fighting disease, so it is something we should be doing.”

But working out with a mask on is a huge adjustment.

Kevin Ozebek: “You almost feel like you’re drowning in that.”

And for some, it could be risky.

Dr. Michael Rosselli: “It can be quite dangerous if you don’t listen to your body.”

Dr. Michael Rosselli is with South Miami Walk-in Orthopedics and Sports Medicine.

He had me up bright and early…

Kevin Ozebek: “That woke me up!”

To see how working out with a mask impacts the body.

I did one minute each of a slow walk, power walk and then a full-on sprint without a mask.

Kevin Ozebek: “I thought that would be easier.”

After a rest, I repeated the same exercises with a mask.

Kevin Ozebek: “Even at this light pace, it’s a little bit harder to breathe.”

I started with a resting heart rate of 65 beats per minute.

After the quick walk without a mask, my heart rate ticked up just slightly to 70 beats per minute, but after the one minute walk with the mask…

Kevin Ozebek: “It almost feels like my body is craving oxygen.”

My heart rate was 96 beats per minute.

The power walk with no mask made my heart beat at just 70 beats per minute.

Repeated with the mask…

Kevin Ozebek: “I almost feel like I am out of breath now.”

It jumped to 102 beats per minute.

For the all-out run, even without the mask, I measured 133 beats per minute, but with the mask, my breathing became heavy, and my heart rate skyrocketed up to 152 beats per minute.

Dr. Rosselli says with the mask, it’s easier for your heart rate to climb into the danger zone.

Dr. Michael Rosselli: “When you’re at that higher heart rate, you feel that shortness of breath, you feel light-headed, you feel dizzy, you feel that maybe you don’t have the same balance you would have had without the mask.”

Dr. Stephen Noel Henry with the University of Miami says those with preexisting conditions need to be especially careful.

Dr. Stephen Noel Henry, Sports Medicine physician: “The minute you put that mask on and you start to feel short of breath, start to feel dizzy, especially when you’re exercising, you start to have any chest pain, that’s your cue to back off intensity.”

Working out increases your blood pressure. Add a mask into the mix, and it climbs faster.

After a quick lap and a circuit of Russian twists, jump rope, bicep curls and battle ropes…

Kevin Ozebek: “I want to rip this mask off!”

My blood pressure went from 125 over 79 to 149 over 95.

Dr. Stephen Noel Henry: “And you’re healthy, so imagine someone with an underlying heart condition.”

Dr. Perez: “What number?”

Kevin Ozebek: “About a six now.”

UM’s Dr. Noris Perez says since there are no heart monitors at most gyms, rate your exertion level from zero to 10 while working out with a mask.

Kevin Ozebek: “OK, now I am winded. Now, I am about a seven. I don’t think I could have a full conversation with you.”

Dr. Noris Perez: “So you’re more like an eight. This is where I would stop.”

If you push your body all the way to the max, you could overheat or get lightheaded.

Dr. Noris Perez, physical therapist: “It’s not going to be the same. Because we have this added restriction, we should just be more cautious. Whatever level you had before, think about where it was and just go down a notch. That’s the safest thing you can do.”

Make no mistake, these doctors say if you’re working out at a gym or near others, it’s crucial you wear a mask.

So, for very high intensity workouts, they say it’s not a bad idea to try them at home where you can take the mask off.


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