Sport with a mask – is training with a face mask safe?

Although corona restrictions are easing, we’re still obliged to wear protective gear in some public spaces. As a result, wearing a mask has become part of normal life for us. We’re happy to see that restrictions surrounding fitness studios, swimming pools, EMS, cryotherapy, wellness, sauna and massage, even contact sports, are now being lifted too. But what does this mean for athletes? Should we be wearing a mask while working out?

Research the individual regulations of each studio to find details about protective wear and you can read more general information here.

Basically, it’s up to you whether you’d like to wear a mask while you work out. 

But how useful is a mouth-nose cover for sports? Does it disturb your performance? And if you decide to wear it, how can you do it safely?

Dr. med. Jann Gerken, specialist for orthopaedics and trauma surgery at the Helios Klinikum Berlin-Buch and Helios MVZ Arthropädicum Berlin-Kaulsdorf, explains everything you need to know about sports with a mouth-nose-covering (MNC).

Breathing masks are not necessary when doing sport outdoors

Basically, it’s important to differentiate between sports indoors and sports in the fresh air. “In my personal opinion, it makes sense to wear a breathing mask everywhere where it is difficult to keep the minimum distance and ventilate rooms sufficiently,” says Dr. Gerken.

In order to catch the virus, there needs to be a certain amount of tiny aerosol droplets in the air. Infection this way is less likely to occur in the open air because the tiny particles dispersed outside are highly diluted, and therefore pose less of a risk.

That’s why high-intensity endurance training should be done outdoors. This is difficult to do with a breathing mask but the aerosol exposure during HIIT is higher than many other activities.


If you train outdoors with several people, you should make sure you keep sufficient distance. Due to strong turbulence, aerosols – and thus corona viruses – can stay in the air longer before they sink to the ground. This is what scientists from the universities of Leuven in Belgium and Eindhoven in the Netherlands found in a study.

The mask has no effect on oxygen supply

When asked whether an MNC influences athletic performance, Dr. Gerken states: “Even if you think that you could imitate altitude training with a breathing mask, the study situation is clear: it doesn’t work. It’s assumed that masks make breathing more difficult, but it’s not really the case that less oxygen and carbon dioxide get through. The dangers and risks of wearing a breathing mask are therefore manageable.”

People who do sports with a mask shouldn’t train too hard

“Training with a breathing mask is more strenuous, for the simple reason that you have to muscularly apply more strength to breathe against resistance,” says Dr. Gerken. According to this, breathing is more difficult.

“That’s why you should definitely adjust the intensity of your workout to achieve realistic training goals and take good care of your own body,” the expert advises.

This means that you should not train at maximum intensity and should not go to your maximum load limit. “I recommend a moderate indoor training program with goals that aren’t too ambitious.”

When exercising, choose the thinnest and lightest material possible for your mask

Although everyone should decide for themselves what type of breathing mask they feel comfortable with during training, FFP masks with a breathing valve are in principle less suitable for sports. Although they protect the wearer from getting infected with the coronavirus, they make breathing much more difficult.

If you want to wear an MNC during sports, you should make sure you choose the right material. “I recommend fabric or disposable masks,” advises Dr. Gerken.

In addition, it is important to change the breathing mask during sports as soon as it has become wet. “If a mask gets wet, it no longer serves its purpose and becomes useless!” In addition, the warm and humid climate provides an ideal breeding ground for germs.

It’s important to note that “Disposable masks, as the name suggests, are intended for single use only. They should be disposed of after use.

Fabric masks, on the other hand, can be used several times after at least one 60° wash cycle. At best, the masks should be ironed afterwards to make absolutely sure that they are germ-free,” the expert recommends. 


Wearing a cover over your mouth and nose during sport is not dangerous and can make sense provided you adhere to all other hygiene measures and the correct use of the mask. 

Whatever precautions you decide to take, just remember that there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be doing sport at the moment. In fact, staying fit during corona times is crucial to maintain a strong immune system.

Dr. med. Jann Gerken says: “Especially in times of home office, sufficient exercise is enormously important for inner balance, mental strength and also a healthy immune system to be able to prevent diseases. Of course, one cannot protect oneself from infection with sports. But with strong defensive forces you are less susceptible to pathogens!”

Take your chance now!

If you would like to wear one of our popular masks for sports, check out our Instagram channel right now. We are giving away a free package with an Urban Sports Club breathing mask, a hoody, a t-shirt, a water bottle and a gym bag.

Just tell us where you would wear your new Urban Sports Club outfit!

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