Should You Wear a Face Mask to Exercise Outdoors?


Many states are making face coverings and masks mandatory in enclosed spaces like grocery stores or where social distancing isn’t possible like drive-thrus.

The new rules have many Americans questioning whether or not face masks should be worn while working out outdoors.

Dr. Richard Martinello, associate professor of infectious diseases at Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut, told TODAY that it depends on what kind of outdoor activities you’re doing and whether those activities allow for social distancing.

"It's really an issue of whether you're socially distanced or not," he explained. "Let's say you're going for a jog, and you're by yourself, and you're running in areas where there's nobody else. Then you're appropriately socially distanced the whole time, and a mask isn't going to be helpful."

If you’re out for a walk or jog in a populated area like a trail, wearing a mask is encouraged and beneficial. If you’re exercising in a location where you can just “cross to the other side of the sidewalk or street,” then no mask is needed.

However, Martinello recommends having a mask handy at all times in case you “find yourself in a circumstance where you're unable to social distance.”

Activities such as running or biking aren't known to pose a threat since you’re moving fast and not in an enclosed space. Therefore, a mask isn't needed, according to Dr. William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland. He notes that if you plan on walking back after your workout and come in contact with others, you should put a mask on.

Doctors discourage stationary workouts such as cardio or lifting around other people.

There’s also some warnings that should be taken into account if planning to work out with a face mask.

Since face masks hinder breathing, Schaffner encourages listening to your body and trying to adjust the workout if it begins to feel difficult because of the mask.

Reusable masks can also increase the possibility of a skin infection. Washing masks frequently will prevent the “build up” of bacteria.

Another thing to consider while working out outside is air pollution. A study conducted by Harvard University found that there’s a correlation between air pollution and coronavirus.

According to the findings, people who live in places where there are higher levels of air pollution are more likely to die from the disease because they are more prone to underlying diseases such as asthma and COPD.

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