As Gyms Reopen, Here Are The Safest Face Masks To Work Out In

After months of getting used to working out at home, gyms have started to reopen. What does that look like, exactly? For some of us, it entails uprooting our entire fitness routines yet again and adjusting to a whole new way of hitting these shared machines. "When it comes to [choosing to go back to] the gym, you have to ask yourself: Are they taking your temperature when you walk in? Are you seeing them regularly clean equipment? Are staff and other clients in the gym wearing a mask?" New York City-based internist Dr. Niket Sonpal, MD, tells Refinery29. This brings us to perhaps the most important step in back-to-the-gym preparedness: wearing the proper type of non-medical face mask.

What face coverings should I wear to the gym?

As you may already know, all face coverings are not created equal — especially if you're spending an extended amount of time indoors. As for what to look for, breathability and moisture-wicking fabrics as well as multiple layers are key. According to Dr. Sonpal, a mask with three layers is ideal, with two layers being the absolute bare minimum. However, what to look for in a mask is just as key as what to avoid: "The masks you'll want to leave at home before your gym sesh are any masks with ventilation or a valve," Dr. Anthony Harris, MD, medical director and leader of the COVID-19 clinical response team at WorkCare adds. "These valves that have no material between the mask and the external environment are not good. Those do not protect individuals from transmitting droplets to others around them."

What face coverings should I avoid wearing to the gym?

One face covering to perhaps skip altogether? Neck gaiters. "Studies have shown that because of the material porosity and not being sufficiently layered, wearing neck gaiters can actually be worse than wearing no mask at all because it increases the small droplets that become aerosolized more readily vs if you're not wearing a mask at all," Dr. Harris told us in a previous interview. "What is most critical is that should you choose to go to a gym, wear a mask, socially distance, wipe down machines, and change your mask if it becomes wet," Sonpal adds.
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