Athletes Hate Masks

Anyone out for a stroll or brisk walk in a public park soon becomes aware that runners, joggers, bicyclists, gymnasts, electric-scooterists and calisthenics enthusiasts rarely wear a protective mask, and routinely do not maintain reasonable distancing from each other and from passers-by. Exercise increases the volume of air inhaled and expelled. Moving quickly covers more ground in a shorter time. Taken together, these factors mean that people exercising in public populated places are more likely to inhale viruses and to spread viruses over a wider area. Rationally, athletes should be more conscious of the need for masks and distancing than people strolling in a leisurely way. But they’re not. There may be several factors at play. First, perhaps robust, healthy people consider themselves resistant if not immune. Their experience is that while others get flu, common cold, and bouts of indigestion, it doesn’t happen to them. Covid is just another thing other people get. The evidence, however, contradicts this. Next, it is common for people to complain about medical masks restricting breathing during activity. This complaint is counter-intuitive because people who seek physical fitness routinely use restrictive devices (weights, elastic straps) to increase effort and improve musculature. Masks, if they somewhat impede airflow, can only help to improve the respiratory system. Finally: masks cause fogging on sunglasses. Other athletes (ski-ers and snowboarders) often wear masks with goggles that do not fog. There is already a solution. So this is not a problem that calls for any new invention. It hasn’t been solved by guidelines and rules. There is no rational excuse for this excptionalism. Is this a problem that is rooted in some kind of psychological quirk or block? If not, what’s going on? And how can we change such behaviour in a non-authoritarian way?




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