A number of scientists are now calling for masks to be mandatory for joggers. Face masks have become a normal part of our daily lives as we have been forced to wear them when in public spaces. But when jogging or doing any other physical activity, face coverings are not always required. Now the question is: Should masks be mandatory for joggers? This is a highly debated topic that has been in the air since the very first lockdown, and the answer is not clear yet. As a general rule, runners should wear a face mask when exercising in an area where it is hard to maintain physical distance. On the contrary, if they are running alone in an uncrowded area, they probably won’t need to wear a face mask.
Wearing a mask reduces the chances that the runner’s droplets come into contact with somebody else passing nearby, decreasing the risk of spreading the virus in the air. Talking to Good Morning Britain, Trish Greenhalgh, professor in primary care health sciences at the University of Oxford, explains the importance of wearing face coverings when jogging.
She explains that Covid-19 contaminated droplets are in the air. Hence, no doubt people can catch the virus if they inhale air that someone else has exhaled. This perfectly describes the exercising jogger. When you pass by someone who is jogging, you can totally feel the breath coming to you and sometimes you can even feel yourself inhaling it. Greenhalgh points out that there is no doubt a danger connected to that. She also suggests washing the masks straight away after running as wet soggy masks can breed germs.
Even if you do not feel any covid-19 symptoms, you should wear a mask during your jogging session. As the professor explains, 40% of Covid-19 infections happen by catching it from asymptomatic people.
“You are jogging alone, you think you are fine, and then the next day you develop the symptoms of Covid, but you have actually breathed that Covid onto someone; perhaps – you know – an old lady walking a dog or something like that,” says Greenhalgh.
Devi Sridhar, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, agrees with Professor Greenhalgh. He points out that joggers should wear a face mask when running in busy areas; however, when they exercise in parks or other open spaces, they can take off their masks. “Runners should think, and I do think, where am I running and I’m trying to be attentive to pedestrians because the sidewalks are there for pedestrians and busy areas and high streets. Get out on the park and take your mask off and run freely,” she says.
Former Deputy Leader of the UK Labour Party Tom Watson admits that he finds it very difficult to run whilst wearing a mask. But he also adds that he has changed his jogging route as he believes runners should keep their distance. “The professor is right. You’re obviously breathing multiply, and you should try to not run into people or near them.”
Will a face mask affect your jogging performance?
Tolerating a face mask while working out can be very difficult at the beginning. You may feel uncomfortable and awkward the first few times you wear it, but these feelings will decrease over time. However, wearing a mask while exercising is totally safe. New research shows that the runners’ heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, oxygen level and time of exhaustion are not significantly affected by wearing a mask during aerobic physical activity, whether it is moderate or strenuous. Additionally, other studies have determined that surgical masks and cloth masks do not have any effects on time to exhaustion or peak power.