According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the science has shown that being outside (and staying more than six feet apart to social distance) poses the least risk for getting sick. That’s because the air is constantly flowing, making any infectious droplets less stagnant.
“Working out is important to do, especially when we are all stressed during this pandemic,” says John Whyte, MD, Chief Medical Officer of WebMD. “Many people are stressed about going to a gym, so a good alternative could be to get some exercise and vitamin D at the same time.”
And with all the health precautions around, we want to make sure you’re getting your workouts in the safest way possible.
For Masks and an Outdoor Workout, Use Your Best Judgment.
We do not know how long all of this will last. Hell, we don’t have a complete understanding of the virus at all.
What we do know? “Being outdoors reduces the risk of transmission,” says Whyte. “If you are working out, outside and not around other people (e.g. your backyard, a uncrowded park where there aren’t a lot of people and can socially distant), you don’t need to wear a mask. If you’re out running and not coming into contact with other people, you also don’t need to wear it. You don’t catch coronavirus by passing someone briefly while jogging or crossing a street.”
For people who are in cities and more crowded spaces, however, you’re better off having a mask on hand.
“If you are in a crowded park, or you run a trail that gets very crowded at bottlenecks, then you should bring a mask with you so when you can’t physically distant by 6 feet, you can put the mask on and give yourself more protection,” says Whyte.
The quick answer? You’re probably fine alone in your own backyard. If there might be other people, definitely bring a mask.
Look for Masks That Are Meant to Get Sweaty.
Not every face mask is conducive to a good workout, though. (Let’s leave the N-95s to indoor healthcare professionals.) If you’re looking to get outside and into fitness while you’re there, you want to look for a reusable face mask that’s lightweight, breathable, comfortable, sweat-wicking, and easy to clean.
“Because you are sweating while exercising, and sweat and water makes it harder to keep a good seal, it is important to wear a mask that has a tight woven fabric,” says Whyte. “You need to keep it over your nose and chin. No paper or cheap cotton or mesh masks.”
Whyte says 100 percent cotton is a solid choice—breathable and comfortable—but higher performance athletes might benefit from something with a tighter seal. UV protection and antimicrobial layers are nice details but not essential. A tight weave and a tight seal are your go-to details here, along with multiple layers of cotton fabric.
Whichever fabric you go for, make sure to keep it clean so it can do its job best. “Wash with soap after each workout,” says Whyte. “Don’t scrub too vigorously because you can damage [the fabric]. And if you’re using a lot, make sure you look for holes before you put it back on.”
Does it Have to Be a Mask Mask? What About a Bandana?
Listen, we get it. As much as you must (must!) wear a mask, wearing one while you workout can get uncomfortable. For airier options, like a bandana or gaiter, the consensus: Venture at your own risk. The looser the fit of the face covering, the less protection you’re getting, so we recommend a lightweight mask with a secure fit to stay cool. They are better than nothing, but they aren’t a direct swap, either. The most important thing is that it stays up and enclosed around your mouth and nose, even as you move.
Luckily, some of our favorite brands are on top of making masks that make your life a little easier. We’re talking stretchy masks, filtered neck gaiters, and everything in between. Whether you’re running, hiking, or biking, there’s a face mask to keep you both protected and comfortably breathing. Here are 24 of the most breathable masks to buy now, including some picks from the editors at Men’s Health.
Under Armour UA SPORTSMASK
“Under Armour’s innovative face mask is a total lightweight winner. It can get a little hot around the mouth area when you’re working up a sweat—like any other mask on the market—but the fabric is breathable, especially around the nose area, and fits comfortable without any need for adjustments. If it’s good enough for professional athletes, it’s good enough for me” – Adam Mansuroglu, Senior Style & Gear Editor
It’s lightweight, breathable, and afffordable—there’s a lot to love about Uniqlo’s AIRism Face Mask. This nylon-blended face mask has three layers of protection to wick away moisture and block out harmful UV rays. Best of all, it’s machine washable, so you can easily clean and reuse these bad boys through the rest of the year.
Reebok’s face masks are soft, stretchy, and, most importantly, stay put while you move. Hand wash them in the sink after a run and hang them dry.
BUY IT HERE
Winter is coming, and even though a thicker mask can help shield your face from cold winds during your outdoor workouts, you still want a breathable face mask to, well, breathe easy. That’s the genius of this neck gaiter version of Under Armour’s Sportsmask. The Sportsmask neck gaiter has an outer layer made of fleece that’s super soft and will help you to combat the cold, but with the same 3-layer breathable face mask to help the inner lining stay cool. You’ll have some extra neck protection and adjustable cording in the back allows you to find the most comfortable, secure fit.
When you’re looking for a breathable face mask with a secure fit, make sure it has adjustable ear loops and a moldable nose bridge, like this great option from Rhone. It’ll stay on and stay in place during your most intense workouts.
Koral’s top-rated face mask combines antimicrobial properties and fast-drying technology so your mask stays fresh and dry, even if the rest of your clothes are covered in sweat. Stretchy lycra helps the mask to form to your face for a secure, close fit with maximum comfort.
Mission Cooling Gaiter Face Mask
“These lightweight gaiters are an easy on, easy off solution if you’re sick of typical #masklife. Just be careful to avoid dousing them in water—it might get tough to breathe.” – Brett Williams, Fitness Editor
Buffs are great for runs where you need your stuff to stay put. It has a tight fit—it won’t budge while you move—but the cooling material makes it still easy to breathe.
This mask has a tight but stretchy fit, making it ideal for outdoor runs or turf work. Instead of separate ear straps that can slide as you move, this is one big piece of fabric, with holes for your ears. This minimizes any fidgeting you might be tempted to get in on.
Outdoor adventurers have been using face protectants for years, albeit for different reasons than you might right now. But the benefit is that they know how to make stuff you can breathe in. We like this one for running or cycling; it has a drawstring to make sure it stays snug.
Self Pro Summer UPF50++ Neck Gaiter
“This lightweight and moisture-wicking gaiter is soft enough that it won’t irritate your skin on long runs. And at only $15, you can safely stock up on 2 or 3 to put into regular rotation.” – Michael Darling, Executive Editor
The surface area of this Onzie mask is bigger than most, giving you more coverage (and less slippage) for an outdoor workout. This is made with a stretchy spandex outside and a breathable liner.
One of the biggest issues with working out in masks is how much they move around when your body does. Hanes made these stretchy masks that will stay one with your face.
This mask has the elements of workout gear that you know and love: moisture-wicking and antimicrobial fabrics. That means it won’t get wet or stink up if you’re sweating a bunch. Plus, you can toss this one in the washer for maximum cleanliness.
Zero exposed spaces means minimum places for germs to get in and out. This one was made for athletes, with a moveable part near the mouth (a “quick flip”) that lets you grab a sip of water without taking the mask off completely. Drinking water won’t prevent Coronavirus but it is a necessity for optimal health and performance. (Feeling lightheaded or dizzy? Make sure it’s an isolated symptom.)
Zensah Performance Face Mask
“I love how light and breathable this mask is. The straps go around your head, so no ear fatigue mid-run and the curved shape fits longer faces nicely. ” – Jamie Prokell, Creative Director
If you’re running or hiking, you might find that the standard face mask slips off your nose or a neck gaiter slowly rolls down. This summer mask is the best of both worlds: It hooks around your ears but covers your mouth and neck. There is no room for germs to sneak in the sides, either.
Anti-microbial is another fitness attire staple that is extremely welcome in the realm of face coverings. It means your face mask won’t stink up, even if you’re operating at maximum level output. Plus, this one looks good. Sometimes that’s the edge you need.
This mask was made for running, but we’d wear it for just about any outdoor workout. It is made with two layers of protection for ultimate filtration.
Moisture-wicking is one of the most important elements of workout clothes, and that includes breathable face masks. This neck gaiter makes sure sweat (and heavy breathing) dissipates instead of making the inside of the mask all wet.
De Soto Sport Skin Cooler Face Mask
“A great three-layer mask for protection without sacrificing your breathing. Fits light and doesn’t get in your way. I like the ties around your head instead of hanging off your ears.” – Jamie Prokell, Creative Director
This breathable neck gaiter is super lightweight, making it tolerable to wear on hot summer runs. It’s easy to lift up and down, too, if you’re off the beaten path and far away from people.
The Better Bandana
“It’s a bandana, so it allows ore air to flow when active, and doesn’t heat up your neck. But it also has an added filter nanofiber filter sewn into the fabric for some additional safety.” – Jamie Prokell, Creative Director
Senior Style and Gear Editor
Adam is the Senior Style and Gear Editor, overseeing grooming, gear, and fashion content on menshealth.com.
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