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Masking at the Gym

Wearing a mask is one of the prevention measures that can help slow down the spread of respiratory viruses such as COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a well-fitted mask indoors in public. Wearing a mask while at the gym should be considered depending on the COVID-19 community level where you live.

While exercising is a sure way to make you breathe harder, wearing a mask could be even more important in the long run. Christopher Gee, MD, MPH, a specialist in Primary Care Sports Medicine and Emergency Medicine at University Orthopaedic Center, answers questions about wearing a mask while in the gym.

Can masks be harmful to your health?

Masks don’t change the concentration of oxygen that we are able to breathe in but rather just restrict the flow of air. We are likely getting plenty of oxygen; however, the lack of airflow causes an “air hunger” that can make athletes panic and not feel normal.

What type of mask is best to use at the gym?

The CDC says it’s most important to wear a mask that fits well and is comfortable enough to wear properly. While some masks and respirators are good at protecting you, they may not be the best to wear while working out. Cloth masks are only recommended if it’s the only mask available to you.

Is there a safe way to work out without a mask?

Physical distancin is only helpful when we are not breathing heavily. Once we start breathing, the distances that the virus can spread have been seen at more than 20 feet. Gee says we should also consider that if someone with COVID-19 was working out before you, that air is still in the environment. If you cannot stand the mask, he recommends exercising outside or at home.

How else can I protect myself at the gym?

In addition to wearing a mask, using hand sanitizer, and wiping down workout equipment before and after use. Do not work out if too many people are in the gym or if they aren’t wearing masks.