Editor’s note 1/10/2022: If you’re reading this in 2022, experts are no longer recommending cloth masks or DIY masks for protection against the Omicron variant. Check out our more recent mask coverage to learn more about the kind of masks that would be the best fit for your family.
By now, we all know that it’s the responsible, respectful and public health conscious move to wear a mask when you’re around other people (after all, you never know someone’s vaxx status or if they’ve got young children or sick relatives at home!). So when you’re getting in some outdoor exercise — whether it’s running or cycling or yoga in the park— you’re going to need a breathable, comfortable face mask for workouts.
Being able to exercise safely in an abnormal pandemic summer is an excellent way to stave off cabin fever or boredom, look after your physical and mental health and actually leave the house. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all people two years or older wear masks “when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”
According to the agency, which recommends fundamentally that medical grade masks be saved for medical professionals, non-medical grade cloth face coverings are the recommended barrier to “prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the cloth face covering coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice. This is called source control.” So when you’re running or cycling or doing your workout of choice on a more populated path or trail, your workout-friendly face mask is a must-have.
“This recommendation is based on what we know about the role respiratory droplets play in the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, paired with emerging evidence from clinical and laboratory studies that shows cloth face coverings reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth,” the agency notes. “COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), so the use of cloth face coverings is particularly important in settings where people are close to each other or where social distancing is difficult to maintain.”
To help you stay safe and stay sane and enjoy what you can while working out in a pandemic, here are the best face masks for workouts we’ve been able to find.
A version of this story was published July 2020.
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