6 Things You Need to Know When Exercising Face Masks
Gyms and fitness centers worldwide are starting to reopen after being closed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Like every gym junkie and fitness enthusiast out there, perhaps you already feel the need to work-out at the gym, exercise outdoors, or get some serious physical activity.
We're sure that you're also asking this one big question, "Should I wear a face mask when I exercise or workout in a fitness facility?"
The good part is, you can!
In fact, it's perfectly safe to wear face masks as you get in shape, exercise, or work-out.
In this blog post, we'll walk you through what you need to know before you hit the gym and how you can safely exercise with a mask.
Plus, we'll go over some tips when exercising with a face mask and the factors to consider when choosing a face mask.
Since we want to ensure you'll work out in the safest way possible, let's dive right in.
1. Use of Face Masks When Exercising or Working Out
Wearing a face covering is going to be part of our reality.
Almost everyone knows that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends face coverings especially in crowded public places and indoor spaces especially when keeping the 6 feet distance from others isn't possible.
Masks help prevent the risk of transmission of the novel coronavirus through respiration. It's more pressing when we exercise as breathing rates tend to send out higher volumes of potentially infectious respiratory droplets.
While the World Health Organization released a guide that people should not wear masks when exercising, as masks may reduce the ability to breathe comfortably, it's still one's decision to wear a mask while working out.
Either way, wearing a mask reduces the risk that we will infect someone else should we unintentionally carry the disease.
Keeping your distance and wearing a face mask when in public places are both essential in reducing the risk of transmitting or contacting coronavirus.
Plus, during this unprecedented time, wearing a mask shows you care for others that you're willing to withstand some form of discomfort.
2. It’s Safe to Exercise with Face Masks On
You can wear a face mask when you exercise or work-out if you want to do it safely especially when inside the gym.
A new study made by researchers from the University of Saskatchewan Canada (USask) has found that face masks don't hinder the breathing of healthy individuals during strenuous workouts. The researchers share that wearing a triple-layer cloth face mask during a strenuous workout did not affect exercise performance or have a detrimental effect on blood or muscle oxygen.
It's important for people working out at fitness centers "since respiratory droplets may be propelled further with heavy breathing during vigorous exercise and because of reports of COVID-19 clusters in crowded enclosed exercise facilities.”
The study evaluated the three-layer cloth face mask - the type of mask recommended recently by Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam. The additional filter layer will give Canadians extra protection against the spread of COVID-19
But if you’re exercising at home, wearing a mask is not required at all.
3. Effects When Working Out With a Face Masks On
In most situations, wearing any kind of protective mask will make exercise a little different, but a lot safer.
Here’s what medical doctors have to say when wearing a mask while exercising:
- “You may breathe a little bit harder, or feel like you’re not quite getting enough air.” - Irvin Sulapas, M.D., sports medicine physician
- “You’re still able to get in the air you need—you just need to work a little harder to get it.” - Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D., President and Chief Science Officer
- "It can decrease the flow of air into your lungs. Over a few weeks, your body will certainly adapt by becoming more efficient at metabolizing oxygen, but this takes time." - Scott McAfee, physical therapist and orthopedic specialist of MovementX
So before working out with a mask on, consider modifying your exertion level. Adjust your workout especially when you’re just starting.
What to know before exercising with a mask?
It’s recommended to start with low-to-moderate intensity exercise to give your body time to adjust. This helps regulate your body temperature.
This can include:
- Walking on a treadmill or stair-step machine
- Rowing machine at a steady pace
- Using an elliptical machine
- Active yoga forms (Vinyasa or Power Yoga)
- Recreational tennis and swimming
- Exercise classes like water aerobics
- Bicycling at a casual pace (not more than 10 mph)
- Walking briskly (at 2.5 mph or faster)
Rule of Thumb: Try the talk test. If you’re doing a moderate-intensity work-out you’ll be able to talk during the activity. If you’re doing a vigorous-intensity work-out, you’ll have to pause for breath so you can say a few words.
As you exercise, be aware of how you are feeling and watch out for signs of:
- Muscular weakness
- Overall discomfort
- Shortness of breath
If you experience any of those symptoms, be sure to stop. Take a break and do some calming breaths to restore the stress on your heart and lungs. In serious cases, you need to seek medical help.
If you have an existing medical condition, make sure to talk to your doctor before opting to wear a face mask while working out.
4. Best Type of Face Masks to Exercise In
Not all masks are created equal. Some types work better than others when working out in the gym or exercising in public places.
When it comes to choosing a face mask when working out, here are 3 essential factors to consider:
- Fabric. Go for a mask with three-layers of cotton fabric. It’s breathable and comfortable for fitness activities.
- Fit. Use the best fitting mask that won’t disrupt you when working out. Masks with elastic or stretchable ear loops fit well and won’t slide off easily.
- Features. Consider a mask with moisture-wicking and breathability features. An antimicrobial coating that acts as an extra barrier is ideal.
Always choose a mask specifically made for exercising. It’s one that is made of sweat-wicking fabric material. It’s lighter, comfortable, and easier to breathe in.
Check out this 3-Layer Reusable Face Mask. It comes with a filter pocket for additional protection.
Sports Masks for Outdoor Activities
Like most people, you might also question whether you need to wear a mask when jogging, cycling, running, or rock climbing?
To keep the likelihood of transmission low, it's always better to wear a sports mask when doing those outdoor activities you love. When you're cycling or running outdoors, sports mask acts as a barrier. It protects you from breathing in airborne droplets exhaled by other people.
Your decision to wear a mask depends on where you plan to do outdoor activities. Running solo isn't always possible especially on popular routes and trails. If you’re planning to head on that trail, then put your mask on before you hit the pavement.
We recommend this Sports Mask with KN95 Filter and Exhalation Valves for outdoor sports and activities. This mask can lessen your exposure to infectious droplets through filtration.
Why should you consider this type of mask?
Here are the 3 best benefits that this mask will bring:
- Makes breathing more comfortable. It is equipped with a valve that lets air out more easily.
- Gives a secure and comfortable fit. It is designed with double-secure features in-ear holes and a Velcro headband strap.
- Offers you uncompromised protection and security. It comes with a replaceable filter that blocks 99% of particles in and out.
Take note: While this KN95 sports mask with filter valve offers some level of protection, it's important to note that they aren't designed to protect others from COVID-19.
Masks use when exercising outdoors and away from others - and in an environment where virus transmission is low - will always be favorable.
Even if you think it’s just you and the trees, you can also bring a mask just in case a group of fitness enthusiasts arrived while you're out there exercising.
When exercising outdoors, always remember these best practices:
- Stay away from popular trails or tracks.
- Always wear one or pack a mask with you.
- Exercise or work-out during non-peak days and hours.
- Choose less travelled trails in your community, if there are any.
- Keep at least six feet of distance or more from others at all times.
And wherever you choose to exercise - whether alone or with some people - always disinfect your hands and your face mask.
5. Safety Do's and Don'ts When Exercising with a Face Mask
There’s a proper and wrong way to wear a mask, so we’re sharing some tips with you.
Now that we know the potential effects of working out with a face mask, let’s break it down a little more.
- Maintain proper hygiene. Wear your hands before and after putting your mask on. You can also use an alcohol-based hand gel.
- Keep your nose and mouth covered. This is the absolute rule you have to follow. Do this to ensure your safety at all times.
- Get a well-fitted mask. Use a mask that is comfortable and fits perfectly for proper protection. Make sure it won’t fall off your nose every time.
- Ensure proper removal. Take off your mask by the ear loops as the front is where germs will collect. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth when removing your mask.
- Have an extra mask. If you tend to sweat a lot when working out, it’s best to have a spare one. Replace your mask when it becomes damp.
- Wash masks regularly. Since your mask gets sweaty after each exercise, wash it as soon as possible. The sun is a natural disinfectant so it’s best to hang it outside to dry.
- Re-adjust your mask. Don’t fidget with it while working out. Your mask may harbor bacteria or viruses once you wear them outside. If you touch it, the virus is already in your hands.
- Avoid paper or surgical masks. These masks tend to break down since they rapidly become wet from sweat.
- Wear any form of medical or PPE wear. These accumulate tons of moisture making breathing a lot harder.
- Over-exert yourself. This could trigger adverse effects, such as dehydration, lack of oxygen, and low blood pressure which could lead to serious health risks.
6. Make Your Workout More Effective
If you have to wear a face mask when working out, be sure to do it effectively. You can adapt and make a few adjustments
Here are a few tips and tricks to make the best of your workout:
- Stay hydrated. Drink enough water when working out and when you feel thirsty. Avoid dehydration as it can increase your heart rate even more during a workout.
- Take breaks. It’s okay to take a rest when you need it. If you’re already feeling tired, dizzy, nauseous, or lightheaded, it’s best to stop.
- Start slow. This is true especially when you haven’t exercised for a while. Gradually increase intensity over time if you feel ready.
- Listen to your body. Be aware of what you’re feeling or what your body is telling you before and during your workout.
Safety is Always the Key
Exercising and working out are essential ways to boost our immune system and improve our health in so many ways.
When you’re about to go back to the gym or a fitness center, take all the safety precautions you can take with you. In choosing a face covering, wear a mask designed for sports and athletes in mind.
Always use your judgment especially when you’re exercising with a mask on. While wearing a mask doesn’t guarantee 100% safety and protection against the COVID-19 virus, it can help stop the spread and protect yourself - and others too.
Every day is a time for us to do our part in helping stop the spread of COVID-19. In protecting ourselves and the community, we can ultimately return to the world without face coverings.
But in the meantime - protect yourself, protect others, and put your masks on.
We’d love to know the best safety measures you’re doing when working out at the gym. Share them in the comments below!