Should Joggers Wear Face Covers While Running? Here’s What Doctors Say

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There has been so much conflicting information about Coronavirus and the efficacy of face masks. First, we’re told to not wear masks, then we’re told wearing a mask only protects us and doesn’t protect other people, and now, it protects everyone — so what’s the truth?

To add to the mask confusion, many of us are wondering when we should be wearing our masks and when we shouldn’t.

Should we be wearing masks every time we step outdoors? What about if we’re working out? Should joggers, bicyclists, and walkers be wearing masks while they exercise outside? Luckily, we’ve got answers to all your questions.

Keep reading for more info on joggers and masks + doctor-approved tips on how to stay healthy amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.

face mask running joggin questions

What the CDC Says

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s stance on wearing face masks during the COVID-19 outbreak has changed several times throughout the past few months. Howver, the most recent recommendation from the CDC, as of April 24th, 2020, is that all people should be wearing cloth masks or face coverings while in public.

According to the CDC official website:

“It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus. CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.”

Deborah Birx, a physician and response coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, recently said in a press briefing that she is concerned people will abandon other preventive measures if they feel a false sense of security wearing a mask or face covering.

“When we’re trying to send a signal that every single person in this country needs to stay six feet away from everybody, [that] people need to be washing their hands constantly and know where their hands are — to send a signal that we think a mask is equivalent to those pieces,” Birx explained.

In general, many seem to agree: Face masks are better than nothing but they are not a catch-all solution for preventing the spread of coronavirus.

See More: A 96-Year-Old Hoboken Resident is Sewing Masks to Donate to Hospitals

Masks and Exercising Outdoors

While the CDC has not released an official statement about whether or not joggers, bicyclists, or walkers specifically should be wearing facial masks or coverings, there seems to be a clear divide about this topic online.

In a recent New York Times article entitled, “Exercising Outdoors With a Face Mask,” NYT consulted Benjamin Cowling, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Hong Kong and the senior author of a Nature study about breathing and viral shedding in masks.

“I think relatively little COVID-19 transmission would occur outdoors, except perhaps in large crowds,” Cowling told NYT. “Running is good for health and transmission risk should be minimal, both for others, if a runner were infected, or for the runner, if they passed by infected people.”

jogging masks questions

{Photo Credit: Instagram}

So, you see, the answer gets complicated. The CDC has not explicitly said, “Wear a mask while jogging” or “Don’t wear a mask while jogging.” There is no official scientific answer as it relates to the spread of the virus. So anyone that has said, “The CDC says I don’t have to,” is not, in fact reading the CDC website.

However, for the sake of politeness and keeping the peace, wearing a mask outdoors {even while exercising} appears to be the safest option.

Hoboken Girl also reached out to Vijay Chaudhuri, spokesman for Hoboken Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla, for comment. In an email, Chaudhuri writes, “Mayor Bhalla strongly recommends face masks or face covers to be worn at all times outside the home, including when exercising.”

Chaudhuri also pointed to a previous Nixle alert from Bhalla, which reads:

If you’re going out for a short walk or need to be outdoors for any reason, I strongly urge you to do so away from the waterfront and early in the morning, or later at night to avoid large groups of people. And if you’re outside for any reason, you should be wearing a mask at all times. To not wear one is putting yourself and your neighbors at risk. You may not think you have the virus because you had no symptoms, but you very well could. And breathing on a railing, accidentally bumping into someone else, and more could have a ripple effect. Even if you’re just taking a leisurely stroll, please have some consideration for others, especially as many are wearing face covers to protect you, and rightfully expect you would do the same for them.

In short, the official stance of the City of Hoboken is to wear a face-covering or mask whenever you leave the house.

Here’s What an Infectious Disease Doctor Says

Hoboken Girl consulted Dr. Avisheh Forouzesh, M.D., who is double board-certified in Infectious Diseases and Internal Medicine, for her take on how we can all stay safe and healthy while exercising outdoors. According to Dr. Forouzesh, if you are outdoors — whether it’s to get groceries, walk, jog, or ride a bike — she recommends wearing a mask.

“Running and walking outside currently during this COVID-19 pandemic are some of the safest activities one can do right now and not only is it beneficial for our physical health, but it’s also helpful for our mental well-being,” Dr. Forouzesh explains. “However, certain precautions must be taken at all times to ensure we are not putting ourselves and others in danger of exposure to this virus.”

Because the piers and other outdoor public spaces such as running paths have become overcrowded, it’s more important than ever to take certain precautions — even if you’re working out.

“Make sure to wear a face mask that covers both your mouth and nose while running [or] walking outside,” Dr. Forouzesh says. “The reason for this is to help prevent spreading your germs to someone else, because as we learned many people are asymptomatic but can shed the virus to others.”

Dr. Forouzesh also recommends adhering to the following guidelines while exercising outdoors:

  • – Try to avoid walking and running on a busy street or trail or at busy times of the day
  • – Avoid walking and running in groups
  • – Try to have more than six feet of distance between yourself and others while running and walking

In fact, while walking, jogging, running, or bicycling outside, you actually want to keep more than six feet of distance between you and others, Dr. Forouzesh suggests.

“The reason for this is because factors such as wind and heavy breathing can influence how far respiratory droplets can disperse outside, and based on recent research models, respiratory droplets from running and bikers may spread anywhere from 30 to 60 feet,” Dr. Forouzesh explains. “Hence it would be advised to maintain at least 12 to 20 feet distance between yourself and others while walking and running outside. Six feet distance is only good for indoors.”

Read More: Where to Get Face Masks Locally in Hoboken + Jersey City

Will Wearing a Mask Make it Harder to Workout?

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Possibly, yes. According to NYT, exercising in a mask may create added resistance to breathing. This could cause the exercise to feel more strenuous than it normally would.

“People exercising with a face mask may feel some resistance to breathing depending on the thickness of the mask material,” Bryanne Bellovary, a doctoral student at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, who focuses on researching exercise in extreme environments, told NYT.

It makes sense — after all, when wearing a mask you have less intake of air and less space for the air to go once you breathe it out.

Couple that with the fact that masks can get soggy from us breathing in and out in such a small space, and a mask could potentially become a breeding ground for germs. That’s why it’s important to clean your mask frequently, especially if you’re wearing it outdoors while exercising. Masks “lose antimicrobial efficiency” when they’re wet, Dr. Louis-Philippe Boulet explained to NYT.

Although masks may make a workout more difficult, it is still advised to take the necessary safety precaution of wearing a mask while outdoors.

The Takeaway

So, what is the answer? Unfortunately, there is no one answer as there are pros and cons to both sides. Should you wear a mask while exercising outdoors? Probably. Do doctors suggest it? Some do, and say it’s the safest way to avoid spreading the virus.

The threat of coronavirus spreading might be significantly less for people in motion, exercising outdoors, but still, it’s the polite, respectful, and safest thing to do. After all, it seems most people — including doctors, local government, and the CDC — are adapting a “better safe than sorry” kind of outlook when it comes to flattening the curve.

And it’s clear, wearing a mask is the respectful thing to do to signify to others that you are valuing their safety and health, as well as your own. 

That being said, the CDC says wearing facial masks and coverings is a crucial part in preventing the spread of COVID-19. But it’s not the only preventative measure we should be taking.

Dr. Vandana A. Patel, M.D., F.C.C.P., clinical advisor to Cabinet, is an expert in critical care pulmonology and lung-related issues that are common in patients who have contracted COVID-19.

According to Dr. Patel, “Anytime you go outside of your home or expect to be near someone who is not in your immediate living quarters already you should wear a cloth mask. A cloth mask can help protect you and others, but even with a mask be sure to maintain six-feet of social distancing.”

hand washing coronavirus

But that’s not all we should be focused on. There’s more to preventing COVID-19 than just masks — and it may sound familiar. 

“Washing your hands with soap and water and/or sanitizing them before leaving your home is important to reduce the potential spread of coronavirus. As the CDC highlights, a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms, and it is important to do your part in reducing its spread in case you unknowingly have the virus {note: if you are showing symptoms, you should not leave your home},” Dr. Vandana says. “Regular washing and sanitizing of your hands also helps protect you if you accidentally touch your face or eyes. For your hands, I recommend the hand cleanser spray mixed with 70% alcohol and natural oils Cabinet offers in its Preparedness Kit.”

In addition to washing your hands and staying home whenever possible, Dr. Vandana also recommends wearing disposable gloves, frequently wiping down surfaces, washing your clothes, leaving your shoes outdoors, and even reaching for debit cards and credit cards instead of cash.

Masks are one crucial part of preventing the spread of COVID-19, but there is also a lot of other important actions we can take to flatten the curve.

Got a news tip? Let us know — email us at hello@hobokengirl.com! We appreciate it.

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Stephanie Osmanski writes honest things about health, the planet, and being a woman. Her words have appeared on Business Insider, Parade, Eat This Not That, Dogster, Scary Mommy, Green Matters, Parents, Seventeen, Life & Style, InTouch Weekly, and more. Her articles have been syndicated on World Economic Forum, MSN, MSN UK, and MSN Canada. In her free time, Stephanie and her registered therapy dog, Koda, volunteer at local hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities.


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