The new ordeal for working out in 2020 isn't about getting the right amount of cardio fitness or perfecting your planks anymore, it's about getting your mask right. The Covid 19 pandemic has gripped the world by fear of catching the deadly infectious virus that essentially spreads when one comes in contact with the respiratory droplets of an infected person. To avoid this spread, the mandatory health guidelines require every citizen to use a viable face-covering like a cloth mask or surgical mask that blocks any expelled droplets. Since wearing a mask is highly integral in containing the spread of the virus, the issue for most people has been about how uncomfortable breathing in the mask can be, especially while exercising which more often than not gets us gasping for more air. That brings us to the question, which are the best masks for us to not only safely but also comfortably exercise in?
Right from the month of March, public health officials have issued certain guidelines that are mandatory to be followed to protect ourselves from the infectious Covid 19 virus. While there is a substantial amount of people who have aligned with the term 'anti maskers' or people who don't want to wear masks, it is important to know that wearing any kind of mask acts as a face shield that protects facial inlets like your nose and mouth.
Several people in India have resorted to tying a bandana, neck gaiter or handkerchief around their face as a cloth face mask, but World Health Organisation's guidelines on the usage of masks read "Cloth (e.g. cotton or gauze) masks are not recommended under any circumstance." As looser types of face coverings may increase your risk of exposure, and also open you up to more exposure, even though they are more comfortable. Of all the protective guidelines that have been issued to protect us from catching the virus, it is wearing the right masks made of substantial material with multiple layers, that really protects us from the disease.
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Let's face it. We have all fallen off our regular heavy exercise regime as we got locked down in our homes back in March. Most people are finding it hard to maintain a balance between the demanding working from home (WFH) schedule, completing household chores and maintaining a fulfilled personal life. Personal agendas of self-care like working out have moved down the priority list as we find ourselves lost between keeping up with all the duties expected of us and finding the motivation to put in extra effort to maintain a healthy workout regime.
While there are many of us who have lost motivation, some of us have pulled up their socks to consciously make a move towards a healthier life by working out at home. Many people who had earlier lost motivation are gradually following helpful tips to get back on track to start working out again after a break. While people are finding the will to build a regular exercise regime, the extent of the pandemic seems to be worsening with the peaking daily rise in coronavirus cases. The country has slowly started opening up its economy that has allowed local businesses like gyms, clubs, restaurants to reopen. While it's important to follow the new etiquettes while eating out in such a time, it is necessary to follow the health protocol with utmost precaution even while exercising in public places like in gyms, or jogging or cycling outdoors. The most important question remains, which is the right fabric mask to not only protect us from the virus while working out but also allow us to comfortably do so?
Small But Crucial Design Details
In the wide variety of masks available in the market, you will find that a surgical mask gets easily drenched with sweat and are generally uncomfortable for heavy exercise or vigorous physical activity. On the other hand, an N95 mask makes you feel breathless while simply walking, making running or cycling with an N95 mask completely out of the question. Even if you find a viable one, their multiple layers reduce the quotient for breathability significantly. Instead of the common medical mask like the surgical one, you want a non-medical face mask that is specially designed for athletes or anyone engaging in physical exercise, which aims to be sweat-resistant and will not cause any facial chafing. This is especially important if you're a long-distance runner or cyclist.
A few important factors that you should find in a workout mask, as suggested by SPY are:
- An ideal workout mask is made from moisture-wicking material, just like you would want in any type of athletic apparel. That includes fabrics like polyester, nylon, spandex and fabric blends instead of lightweight cotton.
- The best athletic face masks should facilitate maximum breathability and should be comfortable around your face, nose and ears, yet not hang loose.
- They should also be highly durable, with the ability to wash and reuse the masks multiple times without any extensive wear and tear. No one prefers a mask that is going to bleed sweat through and become a sloppy mess after a run.
- Most workout masks now come with adjustable earloops to avoid chafing and irritation around the ears.
In particular, the best masks for working out are designed from soft, stretchy and moisture-wicking materials like polyester, nylon or spandex. High-performance fabric will generally offer more breathability and stretch significantly more than cotton or linen face masks.
Right Face Masks
The ideal face mask should securely attach to your face without becoming too snug. In a perfect world, that would include adjustable ear loops or elastic bands that secure behind your ears or thin straps that can be tied around your head, neck and / or ears and be adjusted to the right fit as per every individual. The idea is for you to keep the mask tight enough to avoid slipping, but not so tight that it affects your breathing. A tighter everyday mask will be more protective for you and those around you when indulging in outdoor activities, but a breathable face mask is the right choice for a workout.
Dr Sandra Kesh, a health expert, advises not partaking in group classes and workouts for the time being and generally warns against exercising around unmasked people indoors right now. For your safety as well as the safety of others, it is not advisable to exercise indoors without a mask around other people you don't know. But for those who may still choose to indulge, here is a curated list of the best face masks for exercise that could remarkably improve your work out sessions by allowing more comfort without compromising your safety.
1. Reebok Face Masks
This sleek, black, branded face cover from Reebok is made from a super soft breathable fabric. Made of 93% recycled polyester and 7% elastane, it has a good enough tight fit, whole lower face coverage that properly protects your nose and mouth without making you breathless. It also has stretchable ear strings that can be adjusted as per your own liking. It has two thick, protective layers that make it a great shield not only against diseases but also toxic city pollution. They rank high in durability, good enough to be reused multiple times. The tough fabric is strong enough to be hand washed as well as through a light wash in the machine. This face cover does not lose its shape or form even post a rigorous sweaty workout, nor after washing. Specifically, it is a training mask, but thanks to the comfort they offer, they are great as everyday masks too. Available online as a pack of 3, this face mask is also very affordable for athletes who will be looking for constant repurchases.
2. Giordano Protective Face Masks
This Giordano Sports Mask offers one of the most superior quality masks with its 6 layers of an anti-bacterial filtration system. This mask is made of 100% ultra-lightweight cotton fabric, making it soft and comfortable to your face, and can be used for the whole day for easy breathing. Even though sports masks should preferably be made of performative fabrics, this cotton mask guarantees long-lasting durability just as well as other athletic masks available. Its 6 sturdy layers is another attractive quality that guarantees you could be protected from dust, bacterial particles persistent in the air, pollen, and much more. Anti-dust quality keeps you away from experiencing irritation in your respiration for prolonged outdoor activities like long-distance cycling. The ear loop of the cotton face mask is very comfortable and adjustable, which reduces irritation around ears that prevents from leaving a trace on your face after taking it off. The standard size fits most people. These Dri-fit mouth masks provide added support with a nose clip to keep the mask in place even during vigorous activity while exercising. The brand also guarantees that the mask is reusable and can be used even after 30 washes. Available in multiple colours, it is another budget-friendly option which is available online as a pack of 4.
3. Zero Risque Reusable Face Masks
This Zero Risque reusable face mask is another excellent pick for sportspersons. It comes with an Antimicrobial mask carrier pouch that allows you to carry the mask safely. This ensures that the mask is protected and is not directly exposed to microbes. The mask's construction makes it water repellent as well as splash resistant. Hence protecting from getting dirty and soiled even after wearing it for a long period. It has been dermatologically tested with a chemical treatment called 'Heiq Viroblock NPJ03' (a special combination of advanced silver and vesicle technology that has been proven effective against germs like bacteria) which ensures that it is safe and harmless to skin and the body. The design of this athletic mask is impressive as it has a combination of the face mask and a headband that is fastened at the back of your head, which ensures that there is no discomfort behind the ears even after wearing for long durations. Even though it is made of great durable and sturdy material that does not budge from your face, its material is comfortable and has a scope for maximum breathability. It is another well priced, efficient mask that is readily available online as a pack of 2.
4. Primeway P29 Reusable Sports Mask
The Primeway P29 Sports Mask, especially made for all outdoor activities like Training, Cycling, Running, Hiking is featherlight, comfortable and safe. The sleek black mask has a Copper Coating that effectively reduces odour and provides fresher breathing and cleanliness in the mask. The coating also filters out any kind of harmful dust and nano airborne particles. This premium mask contains infused copper ions which gives an outstanding antibacterial effect. While it has all these protective layers, it also ensures to provide great breathability. To top it all, this sports mask has an inbuilt Air Purifier Filter with 3D ergonomic design for cooler breathing, and is Anti-Fogging that prevents fogging while wearing glasses. The smooth fabric leaves no room for an itchy feeling or pain behind the ears while maintaining maximum face coverage. It is easily stretchable, soft and can be worn for long durations without any facial chafing or allergies. Another great quality of the mask is that it can be reused for up to 50 times with gentle washes with cold water only and dries quickly. While it stays put on your face the entire time it is worn, it also has extra space for better air circulation which allows clear audibility, making communications easy. This brilliant quality mask is abundantly available for purchase online.
5. Big Tree Pro Bike Riding & Cycling Mask
As the name suggests, Big Tree face mask is a pro bike riding, hiking and cycling sports mask. The face mask acts as a shield for your skin against the wind, dust, cold, pollution, sun and even the harmful UV rays. Its thick layers are made from the softest material that can be worn with ease and is very comfortable while protecting you from infection. It comes with Velcro closure on the back of your head to free you from any irritation behind the ears. This face mask also has an Air Filter Mesh and Ultra-Cool Technology that enables you to breathe purified cool air. Its universal size for everyone can be worn as it is or can be worn under any helmet or cap while riding the bike or cycle. It can otherwise also be worn as a protective face mask. The mask is available online as a pack of 3 at really affordable prices.
An extremely beneficial article by CNET provides guidance on what every person should look for in workout face masks while keeping all factor in mind - breathability, safety, comfort and durability. Some of those tips are:-
Fabric is one of the most important factors when it comes to exercising with a mask. For everyday activities, cloth masks are fine. However, while exercising the cotton becomes damp really fast, which can make it harder to breathe and can promote bacterial growth. Owing to this, masks made with a breathable fabric similar to the kind used in active or sportswear (like spandex or polyester) are your best bet.
There's nothing worse than having a face mask sag or fall off while you're amidst your work out routine. It will disrupt your work out if you have to stop to fix it every few minutes and you will likely have to touch your face, which is a big no-no. Look for a face mask that's adjustable or comes in different sizes so you can find the best fit for you. Preferably, stretchy ear loops in masks tend to fit snugly and won't slide around as much as the masks that tie around your head.
3. Antimicrobial features
Since sweat and moisture are an active breeding ground for bacteria, masks that have some type of filter or antimicrobial coating are ideal for physical activity. While these may not actually kill or destroy a virus particle, it doesn't hurt to have these extra barriers in place.
It is important to understand that no mask can offer a 100% guarantee that it will protect you from the coronavirus, no matter how many fancy features they have. But wearing a mask is simply the best tool that can act as an extra barrier to help stop the spread and help protect you and conserve public health.
Is It Safe to Wear a Face Mask While Working Out?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) in a statement recommended that people shouldn't wear face masks when exercising, "as masks may reduce the ability to breathe comfortably," according to the organization. Sweating in a face mask can not only make it even harder to breathe, but it might also promote the growth of harmful bacteria, according to their stance on the subject.
As of now, there hasn't been much research conducted on the effects of wearing cloth masks while exercising. Some experts believe their effect on oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange might present problems during workouts. "Exercise, especially strenuous exercise, while wearing a face mask can have physiological consequences," says Nina Bausek, M.Sc., Ph.D., geneticist and chief scientist for PN Medical. "Due to these physiological events, wearing a face mask during exercise may cause fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, and muscle weakness," she says. If one has to wear a mask while exercising, Dr Bausek suggests taking five quality breaths before putting it on, right after putting it on, then after taking it off, to promote a good breathing pattern during your workout.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends wearing a non-medical face mask "in public settings and when around people who don't live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain." If you're going for an outdoor run where you won't be near other people, you don't necessarily need to keep a mask on as the risk of exposure to the virus is at a bare minimum with no crowd around.