mask during exercise
Fitness,  Workouts

Is it Safe to Wear a Mask During an Exercise Class?

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This very week, we received word that workouts in the gym and group fitness class setting must be performed in a mask.  So, this got me thinking…it this really ok?

Here is my disclosure before we start this discussion.  I am a healthcare professional.  I believe in wearing masks to aid with the spread of many things that include COVD.  I know there is a great deal of controversy about this, but the reality is…mask do work. 

mask during exercise

And because I am that healthcare worker…I will also say they work when they are worn appropriately.  This means over the nose and mouth.

Ok…I am off my soap box.

My love outside of the hospital is all things exercise and this includes my group fitness “booty shaping” classes.  We are scheduled to return to in-person classes with a very strongly worded recommendation to be in masks while exercising.

This blog post is going to talk about the why and if this safe for working out especially with a high impact “jumping around” type of class.

One last thing…I am NOT a medical physician.  The information below is from articles and research studies I have been able to find to aid me in making a decision about teaching and attending an exercise class in a mask.  If you have any additional questions, a known or underlying medical condition, or uncomfortable with this topic, please contact your medical provider.

Ok….here is what I have found.

The CDC recommends wearing face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  These masks create a physical barrier to respiratory droplets that may contain the virus.  Recent research supports and provides evidence of mask effectiveness in lessening the spread.  For exercise specifically, studies have shown that healthy adults performing exercise in a regular mask are generally safe but very tight fitted masks may be risker.  Recommendations to wearing a mask during exercise include keeping an eye on symptoms, taking a moderate approach to intensity levels, and choosing the right mask.

mask during exercise

Is it safe to wear a mask during an exercise class?

This is the largest question to this blog post and we will start here.  The research is showing that it is safe to wear a mask while exercises but considerations do need to be made. 

The largest piece to this is the intensity of the exercise.  If one is performing a high intensity (and remember high impact and high intensity are too different things), there is an increase in how deep and how often we breath.  With a mask, there is a decrease in airflow (the ability of the air to flow easily around the nose/mouth) which can affect breathing and the ability to regulate body temperature.

Also, an exercise class is the one where we come together to workout.  Think bootcamp, dance fitness, Zumba, booty camp, HIIT training, spin classes…anything where a group comes together to exercise together. 

Is there a certain type of mask I should be wearing in an exercise class?

mask during exercise

For the most part, a cloth mask (or a mask made from material that is moisture-wicking) will work well. The paper masks tend to not do so well in an exercise class as our sweat makes it wet.  A wet mask equals a mask that is stuck to your face and nobody needs that!  If you have a N95 mask, this is not a mask that was created for exercise and should not be used for this purpose.

As we are sweating in class, you might want to keep an extra mask with you for a quick change out. 

Lastly, look for a mask that is lightweight, cotton, and has a secure fit.  The most important thing is one that will stay up and enclose your mouth/nose through your entire workout.   

Here are a few options for masks to wear in an exercise class

MaskWhere to get it
Hanes Wicking Cotton MasksAmazon Link
MSAAEX Cotton MasksAmazon Link
Safe+Mate Cloth Face MasksAmazon Link
silicone mask insert

I have also ordered the Silicone Mask Bracket and will do a review on my Youtube channel as soon as they come in.  Find me on YouTube HERE.

Who should not use a mask while exercising?

A quick literature review of studies (I sound so nerdy here….chuckle) on this question indicates a recommendation to those with chronic diseases exercise at home without a mask.  There are a ton of full classes available online and on YouTube or even join by zoom to a live class.

What should I expect to happen when exercising with a mask on?

exercising in a mask

For most, we will have an increase in our heart rate when wearing a mask in an exercise class.  With an increased heart rate, we often feel like we are working harder and may even feel like our “performance” is less than usual.   This also happens when it is really hot…and you may have even heard me say “it feels like we are working out in quicksand”.

Before we start that exercise class in our masks, know that high impact exercises are going to be harder and we may not be do all the moves for as long as we usually do or at the same level.  Think about decreasing your exertion level before you even start the class.  Set that expectation up front.

What should I keep an eye on while wearing a mask in an exercise class?

The biggest one is dizziness but there are others to watch for.

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle weakness
  • Overall discomfort
  • Shortness of breath

If you find that you have any of these symptoms (or just don’t feel right), stop.  Go take a break.  If are able to remove your mask, take a few breaths.  Just this can restore breathing levels, relieve some of the constrictive feelings, and get you back to a good starting point. 

If the symptoms continue, stop exercising immediately and contact your medical provider for further recommendations.

exercise in a mask

And something a little nerdy…

Wrapping this one up!

Couple of things to remember:

  • Wearing a mask (whether you believe in it’s efficacy) sets a message to others that you care for them and willing to be slightly discomfort to ensure all are safe. 
  • Not all masks are created equal when it comes to exercise.  Look for a material that will work well with sweat and have a backup if necessary.
  • If you become uncomfortable, stop the workout.  Listen to your body.

My verdict?  Wear the mask and modify the workout.  My main goal is to keep everyone safe in the room with the exercises AND wearing the mask.


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Jaime Warren is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to www.badassmamagang.com

mask during exercise
exercise in masks

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