Will runners wearing face masks outside reduce Covid-19 transmission?

Olivia Miller
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Whether it should be mandatory for people to wear face masks while running outside during the Covid-19 pandemic continues to be debated. Professor John Dickinson and Professor James Hopker from the University’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences have commented on how wearing a face mask while running outside could reduce the spread of Covid-19 and how wearing one does not necessarily affect sport performance. They said:

‘During Covid-19 wearing a face mask while running may reduce the spread of airborne droplets and so reduce the potential for transmission if exercising in crowded areas. There is no evidence that wearing masks will reduce oxygen saturation or increase carbon dioxide retention during exercise. Indeed, we have previously shown through our research that wearing masks can be beneficial for individuals with respiratory diseases such as asthma. Despite the benefits, masks are not pleasant to wear during exercise as they collect moisture from the expired air and become saturated within 10-15 minutes. This can lead to the mask sticking to the face, the mask making the face feel hot, the mask rubbing on the face and increased perceptions of exercise effort. A heavier (due to water saturation) mask might start to slip out of position on the face.

‘Our advice is that if you know your running route goes through a very populated area, a face mask may help reduce the spread of Covid-19, but if you can exercise in open spaces and keep social distance, masks aren’t required.’

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