Should You Wear A Mask When Exercising Outside?

Most governments haven’t placed many restrictions on outdoor exercise. For example, you might be required to wear a mask when you go shopping — but not when you go for a walk or run. That’s because the science seems to indicate that coronavirus doesn’t spread so easily outdoors, and that your chances of catching it when out for a walk are extremely low. But that really depends more on you.

Whether or not you should wear a mask outdoors should be determined by your actions when outdoors. Are you interacting with other walkers or runners? Then you should wear a mask. Are you hiking on a narrow trail that might force you and another hiker to cross paths in close quarters? Then you should wear a mask. Are you protesting with thousands of like-minded individuals? Mask.

When we say the science “seems” to indicate, keep in mind that there is no real consensus on best practices when exercising outdoors. 

Many athletes or older individuals find that wearing a mask during vigorous exercise restricts breathing, which can be dangerous. 

Larry Holt, who runs Ken Combs Running Store in Kentucky, said that face masks were ridiculous. He was asked whether or not runners who shopped there were wearing face masks. His response? “Oh, gosh no! That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”

Others have indicated that exercising means a person will be breathing deeper and faster, which could potentially lead to easy infection, or the spreading of the virus. One study concluded that runners and cyclists can spread droplets farther than six feet, the recommended distance scientists and health professionals recommend for social distancing best practices. That means that you should avoid running or cycling behind someone else when outdoors.

Regardless, the right thing for you might not be right for someone else. You might decide to wear a mask or not, but doing so could make those whose paths cross yours more comfortable. (Then again, it could really irritate conspiracy theorists).