A new trend is sweeping through gyms and performance centers nationwide. Athletes are now implementing the use of high elevation masks to help further their training efforts. The mask is said to simulate the conditions of training at a high altitude. A key benefit of this training is increased red blood cell production, thus improving the body’s ability to withstand intense training with less oxygen. High-altitude training has long-been an efficient way to improve endurance, but do high elevation masks provide the same benefits?

How High Elevation Masks Work

You wear high elevation masks over your mouth and nose. There are fixtures placed on the mask that limit your ability to pull air into your lungs. When you train with a mask on, you will essentially run out of breath faster while also training at a lower intensity level. You’ll also accumulate more CO2 in your blood during the process. Many people believe that this helps them gain endurance, but the air you’re breathing is the same as if you weren’t wearing the mask. You only get less oxygen because you’re breathing in less air.

Why High Elevation Masks are Ineffective

Training at a high altitude is vastly different from wearing a high elevation mask. In areas such as Colorado Springs (6,200 feet above sea level), the increased air pressure forces oxygen molecules further apart. When you take a breath, you’re still inhaling the same amount of air; there are just fewer oxygen molecules present.

Actual high-altitude training highly contrasts with high elevation masks, as they limit the amount of air you take in altogether and not the amount of oxygen in the air. Here are a few other reasons high elevation masks will not benefit your fitness efforts:

  • Restricted breathing ruins a workout: The goal of working out is to improve your ability to supply muscles with oxygen to train harder. Restricted breathing through the use of a mask inhibits that effort and decreases productivity.
  • Constant exposure is necessary: Even if the masks were to accurately simulate the air pressure of a high altitude — which they don’t — you’ll need to expose yourself to such conditions for an extended period. Training with a mask on for a 40-minute workout does little to nothing to help you.

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