If you’re worried about catching or spreading an illness like SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 while exercising in an indoor environment, wearing a face mask is a possible option. Surgical masks are great for helping protect others from your bacteria and viruses, but you can protect yourself better with N95 masks.
Since N95 masks are designed to be tight-fitting for maximum protection, they aren’t comfortable to wear for long periods. It can also be difficult to talk or move your mouth much while wearing them. However, they can be an appropriate option for wearing while exercising with a few precautions.
Do I Need to Wear a Mask?
Wearing a mask is most important when preventing the spread of COVID-19 or other airborne illnesses between yourself and others indoors. Even if a gym or other facility is well-ventilated, heavy breathing during exercise could cause respiratory droplets to spread quickly.
Wearing a mask may also become important outdoors if you engage in contact sports or cannot consistently maintain social distancing. Exercising while wearing a mask may look uncomfortable at first, but even high-intensity physical activities are manageable as long as you listen to your body.
Avoid Exhalation Valves
Some models of N95 masks are designed with exhalation valves, which allow the wearer to exhale more easily. These masks are intended for use in environments where the wearer is concerned about exposure from others, but they allow your own bacteria and viruses to escape.
Because of this, masks with exhalation valves are unsuitable for situations where you need to protect others from your potential illnesses. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many localities have required masks worn indoors not to have exhalation valves.
N95 masks without valves are usually breathable enough for exercising in, and studies have found no significant impacts on blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, or other performance factors. If you experience shortness of breath or other difficulties breathing, you may need to tone down your physical activities or take more breaks.
Adjust the Fit
N95 masks adjust to fit your face snugly but not too tightly. Unlike 3-ply surgical masks or cloth face coverings, N95 bands are designed to wrap around the back of your head, so they stay in place better as long as they’re tight enough.
To adjust the fit properly, position the mask over your face, then wiggle it until you feel it start to seal into place. Pull the straps up and over your head and adjust the nose clip to tighten the seal fully.
Remove Promptly After Use
Even a well-fitted mask begins to feel hot and constricting after exercising for long enough. If possible, consider stepping outdoors for several minutes to take a mask break soon after your workouts, even if you still need to stretch and cool down. Make sure to maintain social distancing protocols and wash your hands before and after removing the mask.
Keep in mind that N95 respirators are not recommended for reuse because fitting them properly requires you to touch the front of the mask, which means touching a contaminated surface. However, if you need to remove the mask and then put it back on your face afterward, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly and avoid touching your skin directly.
Make Sure Your Mask is High-Quality
Your mask will be easier to breathe through and fit better if it’s made of proper materials and using industry-approved methods. Mask manufacturers are expected to have rigorous testing and quality control standards in place, so make sure to buy them from a reputable provider.
KN95 masks are almost as good as N95 masks and are an acceptable choice for exercising. There are no significant differences in overall protection, but the testing criteria are slightly different. If you want to wear an N95 mask and only KN95s are available, KN95 masks are marginally harder to breathe through but will provide adequate protection.
Wash Up After Use
Acne caused by masks, also known as maskne, has become a significant concern during COVID-19. N95 face masks’ constant contact with your skin make them more likely to cause acne than cloth or surgical masks. Clean your face properly after exercising and apply a light moisturizer to help soothe your skin.
If mask problems persist, talk to a dermatologist instead of trying to change your skincare routine on your own. A dermatologist may be able to troubleshoot other underlying causes that make your skin more prone to outbreaks.
Protecting Yourself Against Infectious Diseases
Staying up-to-date on the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations help you exercise safely while avoiding COVID-19 and other illnesses. Exercising with a face mask is an option when indoors or outdoors, and although there are pros and cons to different types of masks, N95 masks are a solid option.
ICU Production provides masks, gloves, and other PPE to keep you and those around you safe. We vet our manufacturers and source high-quality PPE to protect you. Contact our PPE hotline at (323) 970-2789 for more information.