Should you wear a mask during exercise?

With UK gyms reopening last week, there have been more and more instances of activewear manufacturers creating masks specifically designed for exercise. It is now the law to wear a face covering in shops, on public transport and when visiting other public services (banks, post offices etc), but is it necessary in gyms?

Thanks to the doubling (or even quadrupling!) of breathing rate during exercise, gyms were some of the first places to be closed at the start of the pandemic. Now, in the UK, gyms are exempt from face covering rules, but in the interest of safety as the gyms reopen, some people may decide to wear them. A similar situation arises when considering outdoor exercise, such as running, as the streets get busier. So what are the pros and cons of this?

Masks have been implemented in various locations as a method of ‘source control’, to prevent droplets from the mask wearer from spreading to surfaces or other people. While there has been much discussion around this topic, the evidence suggests that a reduction in transmission coincides with mask wearing in countries where this is observed.

While the exact figures of transmission risk will depend on various factors, this graphic shows how wearing a mask benefits everyone around the wearer.

This article by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) lists some of the considerations that should be taken into account when considering the wearing of a mask during exercise, namely:

  1. Masks that work the best (FFRs, e..g N95) should be reserved for healthcare workers and not lay use.
  2. Masks increase the rate of perceived exertion, creating an effect similar to minor altitude training.
  3. Masks that have increased airflow to reduce discomfort are also less effective at source control, allowing more droplets to spread.
  4. Cloths and masks are likely to become damp during exercise, reducing their breathability and increasing perceived exertion.
  5. Masks may encourage less social distancing behaviour.
Graphic from the BMJ

So, with the above considerations, are they recommended?

It depends. Masks are effective at reducing transmission, so long as compliance is high. However, many people will choose not to wear one during exercise due to the increase in perceived exertion. So long as everyone adheres to social distancing guidelines, increases hand washing and avoids touching their face during exercise, mask wearing in gyms and out running may be unnecessary. However, if you feel safer wearing a mask during exercise, please do so, so long as it is not at the expense of other guidelines designed to reduce transmission. This may be the case if you are exercising in a crowded space and can’t avoid people – although I would argue that in this case, exercising should be postponed to less busy times.

If you choose to exercise using a mask, remember to bring hand sanitiser and use it before and after touching the mask. Reduce the intensity of your workout to compensate for the increased perceived exertion. If you have an extended workout session, consider bringing a spare mask for when the first gets wet, as this could pose extra risks and increase discomfort. If you feel ill, do not go to the gym, and remember, always wash your hands.

I hope this helps! I’d love to know if you’ll be wearing a mask when you go back to the gym, or indeed whether you feel safe to go back to the gym at all? I have not yet, and will not feel safe for a while, unless it is nigh on empty! I don’t think I’ll wear a mask at the gym, but I also won’t go at all if there are lots of people in there. Let me know your thoughts below and feel free to share on Instagram!

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Dormy House

Fiann and I stayed at Dormy House as part of our UK staycation. The hotel is part of the Farncombe Estate, a group of hotels within a short drive of one another, each with their own defining rustic charms, but a definite connecting thread between them.

I previously stayed at The Fish Hotel, another of the hotels on the estate. I loved it so much that I decided Dormy House would have to be next on my list. I was not disappointed! Foxhill Manor will have to be next – watch this space!

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The front of Dormy House, in full Christmas attire

Dormy House is another breed of hotel. Modern but rustic, with beautiful decor and everything you could possibly need – it is the perfect place to relax for a long weekend or staycation. We stayed in the Courtyard Suite, a little quasi-apartment with a room, living room and bathroom, complete with all the necessary amenities. Whilst I didn’t see the other rooms, the suite was the perfect size and I would definitely recommend it for a little extra room compared to your bog-standard hotel!

Of course we immediately visited the spa on arrival – having run a 10k race earlier that day, we were dying for something to ease our weary legs, and the spa hit just the spot. First stop was the outdoor hot tub next to the fire. We had the place to ourselves and it was the ultimate relaxing experience. The spa also has a huge variety of different rooms with various purposes, from a beautiful sauna overlooking to pool, to an ice bucket for some swift cooling. We spent a good 40 minutes in the spa before heading to dinner.

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The beautiful pool at Dormy House

Dinner at The Potting Shed was great – there was a specialist vegan menu, and although it had only two options for each course, everything we ate was of top quality. I especially enjoyed the dessert!

We didn’t get to explore much more of the estate in the short time I had, but I would love to be able to return sometime for longer. Fiann and I felt there was so much more to do by the time we left (not least just enjoying the hotel sitting room and fire with a good book)! Other than potentially getting more vegan options on the menu for breakfast and dinner, I would give this hotel a full 10/10 for having everything we could possibly want and more. See below for some more pics by the incredibly talented Caylee Hankins who you can find here or on her Instagram.

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The front sitting room was beautifully decked out for Christmas!

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It’s never wrong to order another coffee when they’re that good

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We never wanted to leave our perfect little sitting room in our suite!

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Enough space to swing a cat (or dance like nobody’s watching)