Should I Wear A Mask When Exercising Outdoors?

With the prevalence of the Covid 19 virus, how we exercise has dramatically changed. Gyms and Senior Centers have closed and group exercise classes have gone online. With Spring arriving with warmer temperatures and with people’s fatiguing of being indoors, more and more people will be going outside for activity. Recently the CDC recommended wearing face covering in public where social distancing is hard to maintain or in areas with significant community based transmission. In addition, many states have mandated wearing and face coverings while in public places. But what about exercise? Should you wear a mask when you are out for a walk or jog?

First let’s talk about how the virus is transmitted.

What we know now about The COVID-19 virus is that it is most often transmitted from person to person through water droplets expelled during, coughing, sneezing and even talking. We also know that people can be infected with the virus and not have any symptoms. So the use of face coverings is mostly to prevent the spray of droplets from person to person especially from people who may not know they are infected. My mask protects you, your mask protects me, has been the mantra. 

So the answer to “should I wear a mask while exercising?” is “it depends”.

If you are able to go outdoors and take a walk or jog and not come within 6-10 feet of another person, then no you do not need to wear one. I happen to live in a rural area. My family and I walk regularly and always have, and we do not wear a mask, because we do not get close to other people. But what if you live in a city or heavily populated area? First I can not find any scientific information showing harm from wearing a mask while exercising, only anecdotal reports on the internet, which is unreliable. But here are some strategies you can put in place if you live in a heavily populated area.

  • Change your route or the time of day you go outdoors. Try to find a time and area where there are less people outdoors
  • Wear a mask around your neck and if you are unable to distance you can pull it up over your face. 

However there is the social aspect of wearing a mask. In some heavily hit areas such as New York City, wearing a mask is a sign of respect for the health of others and it’s frowned upon to go about the city without one. 

Of course if you have a breathing problem such as COPD, or asthma you should check with your pulmonologist to see if wearing a mask is safe for you. 

In the end you have to make the decision for yourself on what you feel comfortable with.

If you are not comfortable wearing a mask while exercising outdoors then try to find an area or time of day when there are less people around and social distancing is more feasible.  Social distancing is our best tool against the spread of Covid-19. Also keep in mind that this virus is new, hence the name Novel Coronavirus, and experts are learning new things about how the virus spreads, how it affects people and how it behaves on a daily basis. What we knew in  February or March may not be accurate today.  So stay updated on your information  and check the dates on articles you read to educate yourself.

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