Facebook posted a complaint the other day by a runner that wearing a mask interfered with their breathing. First of all, that’s not a good reason for not protecting everyone else around you. Second tho, a huge argument erupted between two those who said runners couldn’t infect others because (they were moving too fast?) and those who said their motion created a slipstream that meant their social distance should be more than six feet. This article’s experts state firmly everyone who exercises outdoors within a social distance of others should wear a mask And that the distance should be greater for runners.
Should I wear a mask when I’m exercising outside?
It’s important to get fresh air and exercise – but do we need to wear masks while running, walking and cycling? We asked some experts
Fri 8 May 2020 06.00 EDT
To mask or not to mask while getting fresh air 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.
Because breathing harder may release more virus into the air, Ben Levine, physician and director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, told NPR we should double our distance while exercising outside.
Are you shedding a large flume of virus on your bike?
Alex McDonald In short, yes. Taking deeper and harder breaths when exercising likely causes more viral shedding, especially if exercising outside where the wind can blow and dissipate the virus. Taking that into consideration, it is likely that due to increased viral shedding individuals that are exercising should probably be more than 6ft apart.
Jessalyn Adam We don’t have an answer. The recommendation of staying at least 6ft apart under normal circumstances is actually based on what we know about the flu. While coronavirus behaves differently, we’re doing our best to make inferences.
That said, experts are recommending that while running you stay at least 13ft away from others. To minimize the risk as much as you can, put as much space between yourself and others as possible while biking.
Do you need to wear a mask if you’re on a mountain trail?
Adam If you’re totally alone or just with people from your own household then that’s fine to go without. However, if there are other people on the trail, wear your mask as you approach and while passing and do your best to try to put as much space as you can between you and the other person. If the terrain doesn’t allow you to put a lot of distance between yourself and the other person, turn away while passing so you’re breathing in the opposite direction.
If you’re just passing another person and particularly if you’re just walking and not breathing heavily then I think it’s pretty low-risk.
Kelley Vargo The purpose of the mask is more to prevent you from spreading the virus as opposed to keeping you from getting it. If you are feeling sick or “off” you should forgo going on a public trail. Consider exercising at home until you’re feeling OK, because this isn’t just about protecting yourself from the virus – we also don’t want to infect other people.
Does exercising with a mask provide performance benefits?
Vargo Training with a mask, especially a homemade mask or an N95 mask will not replicate the effects of altitude training. If you really want to get an edge on your cardiovascular performance as it relates to altitude training, you should train at high altitude.
- Jessalynn Adam is a double board certified specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation and primary care sports medicine
- Alex McDonald is a family physician and former pro triathlete
- Kelley Vargo is exercise and nutrition sciences faculty at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University and the founder of Sweat and Social Distance
Responses were edited for length and clarity