Best Masks for Exercising

By Tracey Dowdy

While some still debate the efficacy of wearing masks, the fact remains that we are required to wear them in retail stores, offices, hospitals, and other public venues, and will be for the foreseeable future. 

As the states move through phases of opening, some gyms are beginning to re-open. As challenging as it can feel to wear a mask under normal conditions, working out while wearing a face-covering may seem out of the question, especially when health authorities don’t agree on best practices. The CDC recommends “that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.” On the other hand, the World Health Organization disagrees, saying that wearing a mask while exercising is not a good idea because it can make it difficult to breathe, primarily because the face-covering gets wet from sweat and deep breathing can cause viral particles to accumulate on the outside of the mask. 

What’s a fitness-focused fella to do? Frankly, For your safety and the safety of others, it’s better to be safe than sorry and wear a mask indoors when exercising around people you don’t know. If you’re unable to wear a mask for medical or mental health reasons, it’s best to exercise at home or outdoors.

The good news is that companies like Under Armor and Adidas have developed masks specifically designed for working out. When choosing, you need to consider three things: fit, fabric, and antimicrobial properties. 

  • Fit – A properly fitted mask is your first line of defense. Remember, if you’re wearing an ill-fitting mask to work out, there’s a good chance it will move around, and you’ll have to stop to fix it, likely touching your face, something that should be avoided at all cost. Choose a mask that comfortably covers your mouth and nose with stretchy straps that loop around your ears as these tend to fit more snugly that the style that ties behind your head. 
  • Fabric – A cotton mask is great for a quick grocery store run or to pick up take out, but cotton soaks up moisture so your mask will become damp very quickly if you’re wearing it to work out. This can make it harder to breathe and can potentially promote bacterial growth. A better choice is a mask made of the same moisture-resistant fabric ou work out in like lycra or spandex. 
  • As I mentioned, sweat and moisture can be a breeding ground for bacteria, so choose a mask with a filter or antimicrobial coating if possible. While the filter or coating may not be 100% effective in killing a virus particle, the extra protection is still a good idea. 

Use these guidelines to choose a mask that offers a balance of comfort and protection for your indoor workout. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.