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Should You Be Wearing a Face Mask When You Exercise?

April 13, 2020

Should You Be Wearing a Face Mask When You Exercise?

First, we hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. If you told me a year ago or even a month ago, that I would be writing an article with this title, I would have thought you were paranoid and delusional.

Now, I would have to say you are conscientious and ahead of the curve.

With the recent CDC guidelines in place, it is recommended to wear a face mask in public. The purpose of the mask is not to protect you, but to protect other people from you. And they are not a replacement for social distancing, which really needs to be adhered to. 

Wearing a mask isn't so bad for the necessary grocery run, but what about just a run outdoors - you know to stay healthy and sane?

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To slow the spread of COVID-19, I'm going to say you need to do it - along with keeping your distance. But how do you find a mask these days and what fabric should you use? Here's what you should know. 

The CDC is recommending the type of cloth face mask made from materials you have at home and that's washable for everyday use. Here's a link to a video on how to make your own face mask.They stress that we should avoid buying up surgical masks or N-95s, which health care professionals desperately need.

The cloth masks should be fine but running with a mask on can take some getting used to, since depending on the thickness and type of material you have will affect your breathing. If you find this challenging, then it may be best to stay at home and workout there, perhaps on your treadmill, elliptical or bike. 

Cotton vs Spandex

I've seen some runners pulling out their balaclavas and neck gaiters. Some of these are cotton but most are predominantly made of spandex because of its elasticity. Non-cotton materials, in general, aren't ideal because they might make you sweat more, dampening the fabric and, in turn, making it more porous for pathogens to get in. Amazon and Etsy seem to have a good array of cotton options if you want to buy rather than build your own.

Just remember the CDC still recommends getting out and exercising. They are just asking us to be mindful about it and avoid crowds. If you're going to run outdoors and know you're going to be passing people along the way, then wear a face covering.

And if you find that the breathing is just too tough, then consider the myriad of options that you can use to exercise indoors from treadmills, bikes and ellipticals. This can be a great opportunity to shake up your workout habits and do some cross-training.

In the meantime, stay safe, healthy and sane.