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New scientific report gives guidance on wearing masks for outdoor exercise

Recommendations for anyone considering wearing a mask on their next run

Academics Christa Janse van Rensburg and Jessica Hamuy Blanco made their comments in a blog published on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM).

Although the risk of transmitting coronavirus is generally accepted to be higher inside than outside, the authors note that wearing masks is an effective measure of 'source control'.

As they explain: “It is much easier to reduce droplet spread by blocking larger droplets as they come out of a person’s mouth, than it is to block them as they have dissipated and become much smaller.”

The authors stress that face coverings must be accompanied by – and are not a substitute – for social distancing. 

Those runners who choose to wear a mask should make sure their face covering is ‘comfortable and secure before leaving the house, to limit the need to readjust it and touch [their] face’.

‘Breathable materials’ are more comfortable, but may be less effective at controlling the virus.  

As the authors explain: “Due to the accumulation of moisture from our exhaled breath, cloth masks or buffs are likely to get wet during exercise.” This not only makes breathing harder, but might also increase the risk of passing on the virus if the front of the mask is touched.

Therefore, runners should consider taking a second mask/buff along during exercise sessions to replace the damp one. They should then try to swap over their mask/buff while avoiding touching their face or the wet parts of the covering. If that’s not possible, runners should carry hand sanitiser with them to use after the swap. 

Good hygiene remains important with the wearing of face coverings. Hands should be washed on returning home and removing the covering. Buffs or masks should we washed and ironed regularly too.

Janse van Rensburg and Hamuy Blanco also note that wearing a mask may ‘simulate the physiological effect of altitude training’. While this might be a neutral or even a good thing for healthy runners, those with heart or lung conditions should take care and reduce the intensity of their runs. 

“People must be cognisant of their breathing during exercise and somewhat slow down or take a break if they feel that their work rate is too high or if experiencing dizziness or light-headedness.”

There is currently no requirement for runners to wear masks while exercising in any part of the UK, although they became mandatory on public transport in England yesterday (Monday, 15 June).

Current advice suggests runners maintain a distance of at least 2m away from other runners or pedestrians. Some studies suggest that that distance should be extended to at least 10m if running behind someone. 

You should not run, inside or outside, if you have a fever, or other coronavirus symptoms. 

Image credit: Unsplash 


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