Should You Wear Face Mask When Exercising Outdoors? -

Should You Wear Face Mask When Exercising Outdoors?

Should you wear a mask when exercising outdoors? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone should wear a mask of some kind when they leave home, and some cities and towns now require a facial covering if you’re outside.

To wear a mask or not when exercising outside is the question many of us are asking ourselves. According to the CDC, we should wear masks in “areas of significant community-based transmission”, such as grocery stores and pharmacies.

While the CDC doesn’t list the outdoors as a high-density space, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s OK to exercise outdoors mask-free.

Wearing a face mask isn’t a huge hassle when grocery shopping or heading out to the pharmacy like earlier mentioned, but when you exercise outdoor, the answer about wearing one isn’t always YES or NO.

According to some experts however, there is no compelling medical reason for people who maintain social distancing to wear a mask when exercising outdoors.

Most of us have seen the pictures of crowded streets or parks and trails with hoards of people gather together. Some people in the crowd are wearing face coverings and others aren’t.

Generally, when people ask if they need to wear a face mask when exercising or running outside, the answer to that question is that it depends where you’re at that very moment.


Some setups, organizations, states and cities have issued their own specific requirements regarding face masks, so you’ll first need to check with your local health officials.

But it really boils down to where you live and where you’re planning to exercise. As a general rule, wear a face mask when you’re exercising in an area where social distancing is hard to maintain.

If you’re going to be passing people or weaving in and out of crowds or others around you, you’ll want to wear a mask.

But if you’re exercising alone in your compound or neighbourhood where you occasionally see (or not see) another runner or dog walker, it’s likely that you don’t need to wear a face covering.

Instead, be mindful about crossing the street to avoid getting too close or give the other person at least six feet when passing.

The same rules apply during other outdoor activities like hiking or biking but keep in mind that wearing a face mask is never a substitute for social distancing.

Think about it this way; wearing a mask reduces the chance that your own respiratory droplets will come in contact with someone else.

Reason for this is because you could be carrying the virus without being aware of it.

If others are working out or cycling past you in a crowded place, wouldn’t you want them to try to contain those droplets?

If you’re not around other people, and there’s no one around to protect by wearing a mask, so it’s not really needed.

How Will A Face Mask Affect One’s Outdoor Exercise?


If you’re in an area where an outdoor run, workout or bike ride warrants wearing a face mask, there’s a few things to keep in mind.

  • A face mask may likely decrease your airflow, making it a little harder to breathe.
  • It won’t decrease your oxygen or retain carbon dioxide but it will probably impact your performance or pace.

This means that you might have a harder time catching your breath if you’re exercising with a face mask.

You might also feel more fatigued quicker than you normally would, even if you’re in pretty good shape. Because of this, you might need to modify the intensity of your outdoor exercise.

Monitor how you feel or if you’re having any unusual symptoms. It’s important to know your body. Be on the lookout for:

  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Difficulty or labored breathing.

If you’re experiencing anything out of the ordinary, find a safe place off the trail or out of the way to distanced yourself from others and remove your mask.

Sit down or walk until you catch your breath and feel more comfortable or better.

The good news is that, like all aspects of fitness, the more you do it, the longer and better you’ll be able to tolerate it and adapt.

So your fitness or outdoor exercise level can adapt to a face covering with time.

What To Look For When Exercising With Face Mask


Exercising or running in a face mask presents you with the unpleasant sensation of a damp piece of fabric rubbing against your face.

Look for workout masks that are made with a moisture-wicking fabric, but be mindful that it’s not too thick or restrictive.

Most running specific face coverings come as a traditional shaped mask with strings or elastic that goes around your head, a bandana (a kind of handkerchief) or neck gaiter.

The mask should fit snug around your face and cover your nose and chin. A properly fitted mask will reduce the need for you to fuss around with it and touch your face.

It’s also important to keep your workout or exercise mask clean. It’s also a good idea to keep a few masks in your rotation.

If you’re going out on a particularly heavy workout or if you’re someone who sweats a lot, bring two masks with you to switch out half way through if you can.

And remember, when wearing a mask, always wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before removing it.

You’re wearing a mask to protect others so that if you are infected and discharging a virus through your mouth and nose—which is believed to be the most common mode of transmission—then the mask serves as a barrier between others and the infected droplets.

If you didn’t have the mask on, and are breathing really hard, could someone else breathe in those droplets? That’s where the distancing comes in.

The bottom line is, wear a face mask when exercising outdoors in an area where social distancing is hard to maintain.

But if you’re exercising alone in your neighbourhood, then wearing face mask might not be that necessary.

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