Working Out with a Mask: Finding the Right One

In New York, working out at a gym post-pandemic comes with the requirement of wearing a face covering. With more mask options than ever available to us, knowing which one works best for exercising can be tricky. Luckily, the LI LIVE team and our clients have tested a wide variety in the past two months. We’ll go through the pros and cons of them below.


Pros: Paper masks are the most lightweight of all the options. We like the ability to adjust the nose bridge with the paper masks. The breathability is beneficial, especially during more intense workouts. These masks are also the lowest-maintenance because you can use them 2-3 times, throw away then use a new one. As a result, the paper masks seem to be a favorite amongst the community,

Cons: Paper masks are definitely not the most eco-friendly option. You can end up using anywhere from 3 to 5 masks per week, depending on how frequently you’re exercising. These masks also tend to have an unpleasant smell to them. This isn’t always the case, depending on which masks you end up getting. It seems to be a gamble when ordering on Amazon, as different ones sell out at different rates. The lower quality paper masks might also not be sensitive skin-friendly as the fibers could irritate.


Pros: The N95 is the most effective mask to protect you from airborne particles. It is also best at keeping particles from escaping the mask itself. A lot of people prefer this mask for general safety.

Cons: While this mask has been very hard to come by due to its effectiveness, we don’t recommend it for exercise. Because it is so effective at keeping particles in and out, it is also a lot harder to breathe in during physical activity. We recommend holding onto these masks for the other parts of your day.


Pros: Cloth masks can vary in thickness, so you’re able to choose which one is most breathable for you. A lot of cloth masks also have the added benefit of adjustable ear loops. Cloth masks are sold fairly cheap in a lot of places and you can express yourself with fun designs.

Cons: These guys require a little bit of maintenance. If you want to keep your skin nice and clear, you definitely need to wash these after each workout. Another benefit of regular washing is the fact that your mask will smell nice. If you buy multiples, you can wear a different one each day of the week and wash them once per week. We recommend using either dish soap or a gentle face wash.


Pros: These masks were made for the sole purpose of being worn during exercise. They’re made of lightweight materials that wick away moisture and dry quickly. Their design also tends to bring the mask away from the face, so there’s more space to breathe. Some brands are more adjustable than others.

Cons: While some companies promise that these masks will provide the extra space/pull the mask away from the face, they don’t always deliver on this promise. What this can unfortunately result in is the mask going into your mouth when you inhale or talk. When the mask has a mesh lining, it can feel like you have a mouthful of basketball shorts.

The Takeaway

Each mask option is going to have its pros and cons. You have to decide which cons you are willing to deal with. Companies will continue to develop and improve the technology for these, as it appears they will not be going away anytime soon.

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