Face masks are safe for most people to wear during exercise

A group of women jog while wearing face masks and social distancing.

A study in Annals of the American Thoracic Society, supported by the NHLBI, finds face masks are safe for most people to wear while exercising.

The researchers examined how different types of protective masks, from cloth and surgical masks to medical versions that filter 90% of air particles, impacted breathing during exercise that gets your heart pumping and leaves you breathless. The researchers found masks make exercise, like jogging or playing basketball, feel a little harder and slightly increased breathing effort. However, the physiological impacts were small—even during intense movements, like sprinting or jumping. One exception is for people who have severe respiratory conditions, such as advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The CDC recommends people ages 2 and older without breathing problems should wear masks in public, while following other safety measures, including social distancing and handwashing, to reduce the risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen that causes the novel coronavirus. People unable to wear masks while exercising in public should stay at least six feet apart from others and choose a space with adequate ventilation and air flow, such as an outside location.