During the COVID-19 pandemic, many public establishments have required a face covering to be worn to help limit the spread of the virus. But while wearing a mask during a leisurely shop or while filling your car with gas is one thing, some people have expressed concern that obstructing their airways in the gym during a workout could be problematic.

Fear has been expressed that masks might lead to shortness of breath, resulting in negative health effects. Thankfully, in preliminary findings made by the Monzino Cardiology Centre, and the University of Milan, there is some encouraging new data. A study published in the European Respiratory Journal suggests that masks can indeed be used safely during vigorous exercise, because they have only a modest impact on performance.

Scientists monitored each subject’s breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels, on both men and women exercising on a bike, with and without the wearing of a mask. According to the results in the paper, sessions that included mask wearing did have an overall effect on the participants ability to complete intense exercise, but only by around -10%, posing no adverse risk to health.

The study acknowledges that all the subjects were healthy individuals, with an average age of 40, so more work needs to be done to determine the effects that mask wearing could have on those with heart or lung conditions. But for millions of gymgoers everywhere, these findings will serve to provide some encouragement that mask wearing is safe while working out.

“This reduction (in performance) is modest and, crucially, it does not suggest a risk to healthy people doing exercise in a face mask, even when they are working to their highest capacity,” said Dr Massimo Mapelli, who contributed to the report.


N-95 manufacturer inspecting a N95 mask while wearing a plastic face guard

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4 Breathable Face Masks Suitable for Workouts

Since it looks like masks are going to be part of the gym environment for some time to come, here are our picks when it comes to comfort and breathability.

Project Rock UA Sports Mask

Project Rock and Under Armour Dwayne the rock Johnson face mask
Courtesy of underarmour.com

If The Rock is going to put his name to a gym accessory, it will need to pass the test. The Project Rock UA Sports Mask has been designed with airflow in mind. This 3-layer mask features UA’s ISO-CHILL technology to keep the fabric cool against your skin and has been covered with an anti-microbial treatment.

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Mission Adjustable Sports Mask

Couple wearing Mission face masks while stretching and working out
Courtesy of mission.com

Mission’s new multi-layer mask is adjustable so that you can get the perfect fit. Soft and breathable, this ultra-comfortable face covering utilizes breathable fabric and is designed to release excess heat.

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Buff Filter Mask

Man wearing a Buff filter face mask for working out
Courtesyh of buffusa.com

Designed with performance in mind, the Buff Filter Mask is easily adjustable, and highly breathable, built with all-day wear and long workout sessions in mind. This mask features replaceable filters, and the fabric is treated with antimicrobial HeiQ V-block technology.

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Couple wearing Halomasks face masks
Courtesy of halolife.io

HALO got a head start on face protection, as it was created to protect from air pollution through volcano eruptions in Indonesia and even wildfires in California and Australia. HALOmasks blend a “breathing edge” nanotechnology through filtration with comfort and style for optimal protection.

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