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Is It Advisable To Wear A Face Mask While Running Outdoors?

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

The rapid spike in the COVID-19 cases has made us more conscious about our health. People around the globe are taking precautionary steps to avoid themselves from getting infected from COVID-19 (SARS-COV-2). But those people who are eager to get back to fitness are sure to ask this most important question; shall I exercise with a face mask on?  

While social distancing and maintaining good health and hygiene is necessary; wearing a mask has been made compulsory in almost every public place. If you run outdoors, remember the importance of social distancing and avoiding others. It is essential to maintain at least 10 to 12 feet of separation during a run, because you’re breathing heavily as you work out. Runners’ “breath cloud” may contain more of the virus. (wearing a face mask protects us and others from droplet spread, even from asymptomatic spread).

Is It Advisable To Wear A Face Mask While Running Outdoors? - PharmEasy

Should I wear a Face Mask while running?  

You should wear a face mask when you’re running in an area where social distancing is hard to maintain. If you’re going to be passing people in and out of crowds, you’ll want to wear a mask. Keep in mind that wearing a face mask is not a substitute for physical distancing.

But if you’re running alone in your neighbourhood where you occasionally see another runner or a walker, it’s likely that you don’t need to wear a face covering. Instead, be mindful about crossing the street to avoid getting too close or give the other person at least six feet while passing.


How will the face mask affect my run?

Running or jogging with a face mask is going to decrease your airflow, making it a little harder to breathe. It won’t  decrease your oxygen or retain carbon dioxide, but it will probably impact your performance or pace.

This means that you might have a harder time catching your breath if you’re running with a face mask. You might also feel more fatigued quicker than you normally would, even if you’re in pretty good shape, you might need to modify the intensity of your run.

It is most important that you should monitor how you feel or if you’re having any unusual symptoms.  

It is safe to wear a mask while exercising for most people. However, if you have a chronic lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, mesothelioma, or pulmonary hypertension, talk with your doctor before attempting any physical activity while wearing a mask.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj – M.B.B.S, M.D.

Be on the lookout for:  

  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness  
  • Difficulty in breathing

If you’re experiencing any difficulty, find a safe place off the trail or out of the way to distance yourself from others and remove your mask. Sit down or walk until you catch your breath and feel better. If you continue to experience any difficulty, call your doctor immediately.

Criteria to look for in a running mask

Running in a mask presents you with an unpleasant sensation of a damp piece of fabric rubbing against your face. A sweaty or wet mask is going to be less effective at filtering, breathing and more uncomfortable.

Look for workout masks that are made with a moisture-wicking fabric but be mindful that it’s not too thick or restrictive. Most running specific face masks come as a traditional shaped mask with strings or elastic that goes around your head.

It’s also important to keep your running mask clean and remember when wearing a mask, always wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before removing it. A properly fitted mask will reduce the need for you to fuss around with it and touch your face.

When wearing a mask, remember the following points:

  1. Do not touch the mask.
  2. Dispose of single-use masks after use and wash reusable masks regularly.
  3. Ensure your mask is well fitted, so exhaled air does not reach your eyes.

The CDC recommends not wearing a mask during high intensity activities like running if it causes breathing difficulty. Also it noted that as aerobic activity increases, wearing a mask while running can affect airflow and may increase your perceived workload and heart rate.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

If you are concerned about your health and do not want to work-out with mask outdoors, then here are a few tips that you must keep in mind –

1. Underlying health condition: If you are suffering from some underlying health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease, it is highly not recommended to wear a mask during exercise.

2. Do not push your limit: Do not go overboard when exercising. If you start feeling weak or tired, then stop immediately.


3. The next best thing is to simply listen to your body – If you experience light-headedness, dizziness, extreme shortness of breath or numbness, you need to sit down and take a break.

4. Pick times and routes that are less likely to be busy. Try running earlier in the morning or during your lunch break to avoid the crowds. Also, try to avoid running in a busy park or sidewalk. This will allow you more open space, a change of scenery and less frustration trying to dodge others.

5. Don’t run directly behind anyone: Whether you are running with a mask on or off, it is best to avoid running directly behind anyone even if you are more than 6 feet away. Since you will be running into the person’s slipstream it is more likely for you to come into contact with their exhaled air and droplets. For those practising in a group, it is recommended that everyone in the group wears a mask and maintains enough distance from each other.  


To conclude, it is better to indulge in low-intensity exercises such as walking, brisk walking or slow jogging as it will put less strain on their breathing. So, keep following the regular guidelines & stay safe.  

Obviously, it is better for you and everyone around you if more people are vaccinated. Vaccinations lower your risk of severe symptoms, hospitalisation and death. They may help to cut down on the spread of Covid-19 and it is our only hope for getting out of this pandemic finally. Get vaccinated as soon as you can if you are eligible.  



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