Ever since COVID-19 broke out in late March of this year, our world has been turned upside down. We all know by now that we have to cover up our faces when we are in crowded public spaces such as shopping centers and restaurants as well as in indoor locations such as the gym. While there is mounting evidence that masks can contribute to variations in breathing, there is little research to show how long face coverings affect us when we exercise.


Fortunately, unpublished analyses by several labs are starting to come out that provide useful tips for wearing masks while exercising. These analyses have shown that masks do carry certain effects when you exercise by causing your heart rate to increase more than it normally would be with the same amount of intensity. This means that should you stick to your normal exercise routine but add a face mask, you should expect your heart rate to increase eight to 10 beats per minute higher than it would be otherwise. 


How to Choose the Best Mask to Exercise In


Some people who exercise may experience light-headedness and other breathing difficulties, while others may remain unaffected. Fortunately, these issues can be mostly minimized by wisely choosing which mask to wear while you exercise. Surgical masks should be avoided completely while you exercise because they become wet with saliva when you breathe into them, and they can lose their ability to block out germs. Likewise, cotton cloth masks become damp easily, because they are made from breathable materials. 


You should choose masks that have two layers or fewer so that you can avoid any overheating or bunching of the cloth that might minimize your ability to breathe. You can also use neck buffs that you can pull up over your mouth and nose. A neck bluff stays open at the bottom, allowing for a greater level of airflow. The trade-off with neck bluffs is that they aren’t as good at preventing respiratory infections like COVID-19. 


More Tips for Exercising With a Face Mask


You may also wish to carry extras of whichever mask you prefer if you plan on exercising more than half an hour because even fabrics that are less breathable become damp at a certain point and need to be replaced. Do your best not to touch the front of a used mask, because viral particles can accumulate. After you remove the mask, you should dispose of the damp mask with care. 


You may need to try on several different brands from several different manufacturers in order to find the best face mask to wear during a workout. Do not let having to wear a mask deter you from getting in the exercise you need when you are exercising near others. You should especially wear a mask if you plan on exercising at your local gym because air circulation in a gym tends to accumulate virus particles.