Best face masks to use for exercise in 2020 - CNET

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If you're returning to a fitness center or gym to work out, you may be required to wear a face mask while you exercise. But you might also consider waiting -- Dr. Sandra Kesh, an infectious disease expert, recommends skipping exercise classes and workouts and cautions against exercising around unmasked people indoors in the short term. For your safety as well as the safety of others, it's inadvisable to exercise indoors without a mask around other people you don't know. (Here's how to fix an uncomfortable mask.)

Read more: The best face masks for running

We put some face masks designed for working out to the test and found the best breathable and moisture-wicking options. We updated this story recently.

Under Armour

Under Armour designed the UA Sportsmask with athletes in mind, but any avid exerciser will find the mask useful if you're looking to upgrade from a standard cloth face mask. The mask is made with three different layers designed to allow airflow while also protecting you. One layer of the mask has an antimicrobial treatment called "PROTX2." 

When I tried the Under Armour mask during a cardio workout, I first noticed it felt comfortable on my face -- it didn't cling to my mouth, which can be uncomfortable when you're breathing harder. When I started to sweat, I noticed that instead of the mask feeling hot I got a cool sensation, which was so nice. 

The mask didn't totally wick away moisture, but since the fabric wasn't so tight on my mouth, it wasn't a problem. While the ear loops on the mask aren't adjustable, they're stretchy and comfortable. Overall, I was impressed with this mask and would be comfortable wearing it in indoor or outdoor fitness settings.

The Well

The Well Movement mask is 50% cotton, so it may not stay dry during serious sweat sessions, but for most activities, it'll perform better than a 100% cotton mask since it's also made of sweat-friendly polyester and spandex. The ear loops are adjustable, which is a huge plus for fit and comfort. There's also a handy lanyard attached so you can wear the mask around your neck. 

The best feature on the mask is the moldable nose pad so you can make sure it fits comfortably and snugly on your face. After testing this mask, I decided it's best for walking and not intense workouts (I'd opt for the UnderArmour mask for those) since the fabric is thin but still comfortable. 

Carbon38

Carbon38 The Mask Kit comes with two masks, plus a laundry bag for washing. The masks are made with a blend of polyester and cotton, so they are fast-drying and help you stay cool. The ear loops are adjustable for a snug fit, and the masks come in two sizes. 

Carbon38 says the masks are made with a multi-layer filtration system to help protect you, plus the fabric has antibacterial properties. I liked how thick the fabric is on these masks -- the nose piece is also structured to help it stay in place which is helpful for movement. The adjustable ear loops help give it a more snug and custom fit too. 

These masks would work great for a brisk walk or other lower-intensity workout since they fit close to your face. They could be difficult to wear during a more intense workout.

Adidas

The Everyday Mask from Proper Cloth is made from linen, has an antimicrobial treatment and contains a filter for extra barrier protection. The mask fits comfortably with adjustable ear loops and the nose bridge isn't too stiff, but helps keep it anchored on your face. 

I like the linen material since it's lightweight and breathable, but I would wear it for more leisurely activities such as walking, pilates or yoga. If you're doing a lot of sweating, it would get damp, since linen isn't the most performance-friendly fabric. 

Onzie

Working out in yoga clothing is way more comfortable than regular clothes, so why not take the same approach to your face mask? Yoga and athletic wear brand Onzie uses upcycled yoga fabrics to create face masks that are stretchy and dry quickly -- just like your favorite leggings. Just a heads up: because the brand is reusing fabric from yoga wear, you can't choose specific colors and patterns, but it's definitely worth it for a more sustainable mask option. 

When I tried the mask, it felt exactly like I expected. The mask fits tightly across your face, but the material is stretchy (like yoga pants) and breathable. Even though the ear loops aren't adjustable, they are still comfortable and the mask still fits snugly. 

Because the mask isn't super adjustable, I would wear it for lower-intense workouts that won't leave you breathing so hard. For more intense workouts, such as high-impact cardio, you want to make sure you have some room around your mouth to breathe, so the UnderArmour mask would be more suitable.

Koral

Koral uses the same antimicrobial performance fabric to make its face masks as its activewear, which is stretchy and fast-drying. When I put it to the test, I immediately found the soft, stretchy fabric comfortable against my face. The only thing I didn't love about this mask was that the ear loops aren't adjustable. After wearing this mask out on a jog or walk, you can toss it in the wash since the mask is machine-wash friendly.

Athelta

The Athleta Made to Move Mask was designed specifically for exercise -- which I could tell right away when I tried on the mask. It's one of the most comfortable and breathable masks I've tried yet. 

The material is lightweight and the inside of the mask has a mesh lining. The fabrics help take care of moisture and the mask fits snugly, but you can still breathe. There is also an inner pocket inside the mask if you wanted to add a filter layer (although that isn't included). The ear loops are made of a soft elastic that won't pull your hair and are adjustable. 

The Athleta Mask is great for walking, or even outdoor workouts like jogging or biking. Since the mask is breathable and adjustable, you can feel confident that it won't fall off your face during movement. 

What to look for in face masks for exercise 

Fabric

Fabric is one of the most important factors when it comes to exercising with a mask. For everyday activities, cloth masks are fine. But with exercise, cotton becomes damp really fast, which can make it harder to breathe and can promote bacterial growth. So for this reason, masks made with a breathable fabric similar to the kind used in activewear (like spandex or polyester) are your best bet. But still, you want the mask to be breathable and comfortable while you move.

Fit

There's nothing worse than having a face mask sag or fall off while you're moving. First, it's just annoying. Second, it will disrupt your workout if you have to stop to fix it and you'll likely have to touch your face -- which you should avoid doing to stay safe.

Look for a face mask that's adjustable or comes in different sizes so you can find the best fit for you. Stretchy ear loops or elastic tends to fit snugly and won't slide around as much as the masks that tie around your head.

Antimicrobial features 

Since sweat and moisture can be a breeding ground for bacteria, masks that have some type of filter or antimicrobial coating are ideal for physical activity. (Many of the masks on this list do have these features.) While these may not actually kill or destroy a virus particle, it doesn't hurt to have these extra barriers in place. 

Also, understand that no mask on this list can offer a 100% guarantee that it will protect you from the virus, no matter how many fancy features they have. But wearing a mask is simply another tool that can act as an extra barrier to help stop the spread and help protect you and others.

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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