Let’s begin by explaining why the use of a face mask is important during the pandemic
As many of us know, COVID-19 is a disease that is caused by a new type of coronavirus, and it’s a respiratory infectious disease. The virus predominantly affects the respiratory tract, and can lead to serious consequences. This has caused a lot of devastation in most countries around the world, including the United States, in areas like the healthcare system and our economy.
The severity of this disease can be very diverse. The most common symptoms are very mild and can resemble the flu or a common cold, but certain people can develop very severe forms of the illness that can be life-threatening. Kids and younger people are currently the least affected age group, while the elderly and people with certain comorbidities, like diabetes or obesity, are at higher risk of infection.
This is a respiratory virus, which means that it’s transmitted by droplets released by the infected person’s nose or mouth as they talk, breathe, sneeze or cough. These droplets contain the virus, and when they’re released into the environment they can be inhaled by an uninfected person. The virus replicates and colonizes the respiratory tract, injuring it in the process.
The different types of face masks available are designed for different uses in different environments. For example, medical-grade disposable face masks like the N95 masks or the surgical masks, are ideal for settings in which exposure to the virus is much higher and consistent, like the healthcare field.
N95 masks, also known as N95 respirators, are the preferred choice for antiviral purposes in frontline workers, as their filtering properties make them offer the best virus protection among the available face masks. They can filter out now only viruses, but also other very small particles like pollen, dust, smoke, and others, giving them multiple uses outside the healthcare field.
These masks have been scarce throughout 2020, including the popular 3M N95 masks in models like the 3M 8511, 3M 8210, and 3M 1860. Other medical supplies have also been scarce, like surgical masks, face shields, and KN95 masks. But, reusable cloth masks have been widely available for sale in both physical and online stores, and anyone can buy them in bulk and wholesale.
Best masks for sports and exercise
By now, we’re all familiar with the main strategies to keep ourselves and those around us safe, which have become part of our daily routines. Wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from each other, and washing our hands regularly is something we do almost automatically.
The majority of our daily activities now involve a face mask, but even after 10 months of living in a pandemic, many people wonder how to incorporate face masks into sports and exercise routines safely. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been recommending reusable cloth masks as the gold standard for protection of the general public in situations of low risk.
This includes grocery stores, public transportation, and any other setting in which a 6 feet distance from other people is achievable in a consistent way. Cloth masks wouldn’t be as effective in high-risk situations, like healthcare settings, and as we mentioned, these require medical-grade masks that are currently scarce around the USA and are necessary for frontline workers.
Cloth masks are considered comfortable enough for these activities, as well as for walks and mild physical activity. However, most of the regular cloth masks available in the market weren’t designed for more extreme physical activity, such as the one a sport would require. They can irritate the skin, fall off, and be difficult to breathe in, making the wearer uncomfortable and not motivating them to either exercise or wear a mask.
But, after being in this situation for more than ten months, it was expected that manufacturers would find a solution to make face masks for sports. Now, there are many different cloth mask models out there designed specifically for exercising and for many different types of sports.
In general, a good face mask for physical activity should offer four things: protection, flexibility (so that they don’t move around or fall off), comfort, and staying dry (because face masks in general lose effectiveness and become difficult to breath with when they’re damp or wet). When searching for face masks to exercise, look for these properties:
A good material: think about the materials you look for in workout clothes, those are the same materials your cloth mask should be made of. Lightweight and moisture-wicking fabrics allow comfort and dryness to the mask. Also, look for flexible fabrics, like elastane or spandex, to keep up with all the movement you’ll be doing.
Breathability: to ensure this, an outer layer of mesh-like fabric could be useful. But, make sure the mask is made up of several layers of other lightweight tightly woven fabric to ensure good protection.
A good fit: this is also to make sure your mask doesn’t move around and it’s comfortable to breathe in. Look for a mask that fits your face comfortably, and ideally with ear loops or head straps, as they help adjust the mask to the face better.
This article by Rolling Stone has more information about choosing a face mask for practicing sports and other forms of exercise, as well as a list of available cloth masks on the market made for physical activity.
The CDC also has some available information on their website about how to safely play sports during the pandemic.