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VERIFY: Should you wear masks when exercising outside?

There's no hard and fast rule. Our Verify team found that from a public health standpoint, the answer changes on a case-by-case basis.


Is there a hard and fast rule about whether you should wear a mask while exercising outdoors?




World Health Organization- "Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Mythbusters"

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention- "Considerations for Wearing Cloth Face Coverings"

Dr. Linda Nabha- Infectious Disease Specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center 


The Verify team has gotten a lot of questions about wearing a face mask when you exercise outside.

So we’re verifying, is there a hard and fast rule about wearing a mask while exercising outdoors? Our Verify researchers looked at this purely from a public health standpoint -- it's important to always follow local and state rules about masks and outdoor exercise.

The World Health Organization published this graphic in mid-June that says, “people should not wear masks when exercising as masks may reduce the ability to breathe comfortably.”

The graphic goes on to say that a sweaty, wet mask can make it more difficult to breathe and encourage the growth of microorganisms.

WHO says to maintain a physical distance of at least one meter from others, which is just over three feet.

Dr. Linda Nabha helped put the World Health Organization's guidance in perspective, and said for her, it’s case by case.

She said someone who’s running at a fast pace in a rural empty area is a lot different from someone walking at a destination spot in the city.

"If you’re briskly walking along the Potomac River, for example, in Washington, D.C., where plenty of people are out walking, that’s a particular situation where I think a mask would certainly be warranted if you’re not doing heavy exercise,” Nabha said.

The CDC doesn’t specifically address the issue but issued this guidance online:

“People who are engaged in high-intensity activities, like running, may not be able to wear a cloth face covering if it causes difficulty breathing. If unable to wear a cloth face covering, consider conducting the activity in a location with greater ventilation and air exchange (for instance, outdoors versus indoors) and where it is possible to maintain physical distance from others.”

So, we can Verify that there’s no hard and fast rule for outdoor exercise, it should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Experts say factors like intensity, your ability to breathe, how crowded the area is, and whether you’re able to keep your distance without a mask all play a role.

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