Exercising During Pandemic: Which Mask and When?

We are always urging people to get up and get moving. Right now, during the pandemic, many of us have been turning to indoor exercise. People with health concerns are being urged to stay home and stay away from others. We have been sharing a lot of exercise ideas for folks who want to stay fit at home. (https://blog.neulivenhealth.com/post/tagged/exercise) Staying fit helps your immune system as well as your other medical concerns.

However, many people enjoy their daily exercise outdoors. During the pandemic, one useful piece of advice is to exercise either very early in the day or later in the evening when not as many people are around. That tip is also important right now, during this heatwave. Exercise is harder when the weather is hot. Heat and humidity can raise your core temperature. (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048167) Sweat can’t evaporate from your skin when the humidity is high, making you even hotter. That can lead to heat exhaustion, heatstroke and other problems. So, staying cool and hydrated is essential when you exercise. Exercising before the sun is up or after it has gone down can help you stay healthy and comfortable.

The CDC recommends that everyone wears a mask in public. Some areas have made them mandatory. But is it possible to exercise with a mask on? Experts disagree. The World Health Organization says people shouldn’t be exercising with masks because it makes breathing harder. (https://www.cnet.com/health/should-you-exercise-with-a-face-mask-during-coronavirus/) They say you should exercise far away from others. If that is an option for you, great! If your area requires masks or there are just too many people around, your only options may be wearing a mask or staying inside.

“Most people can perform every and all exercises with a face mask on,” said Grayson Wickham, a physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist at Movement Vault. “You will want to monitor how you’re feeling while exercising and watch out for specific symptoms such as lightheadedness, dizziness, numbness or tingling and shortness of breath.” (https://www.cnet.com/health/should-you-exercise-with-a-face-mask-during-coronavirus/)

If you have COPD or other breathing conditions, exercise with a mask may not be possible. You may have to stick to working out in your home. If you are someone who has been managing a mask well and does enjoy exercising outside, people have been compiling lists of the best sports masks. Unsurprisingly, athleticwear companies have started designing masks. Until we have effective vaccines against, and treatments for, COVID-19, we are going to need masks to enjoy daily activities.

Under Armour has released the “Sportsmask” with material designed to feel cool against the skin and have anti-microbial properties. (https://www.masslive.com/business/2020/07/need-a-face-mask-for-the-gym-check-out-these-exercise-friendly-masks-from-under-armour-adidas-and-reebok.html) It keeps selling out online, but it’s one to keep an eye out for if you are a workout enthusiast. Adidas and Reebok have also released masks designed for athletes with ear straps. Additionally, there are neck gaiters made with cooling material, masks designed with UV protection in mind and more. (https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/best-breathable-face-masks-sports-exercise-15338912.php)

“Any type of facial covering and material can be effective as long as it fits well, stays dry, and covers the nose and mouth,” infectious disease expert Mark Cameron says. (https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/best-breathable-face-masks-sports-exercise-15338912.php)

The bottom line is, the right mask is the one you can breathe in and comfortably exercise. When you are exercising in a mask, you should carry extra ones with you. When you sweat, the mask becomes damp and becomes harder to breathe through. So, plan ahead to swap a sweaty one for a dry one.

Stay active, stay cool and do your best to get your exercise into your “new normal” routine!

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