Are people required to wear a mask while exercising?
One of the most discussed issues around masks is whether they are necessary while exercising. The CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering “when physical distancing is difficult and when exercise type and intensity allows. Consider doing any vigorous-intensity exercise outside when possible and stay at least 6 feet away from other participants, trainers, and clients if unable to wear a face covering.”
The WHO recommends that people not wear a mask while exercising “as masks may reduce the ability to breathe comfortably. Sweat can make the mask become wet more quickly which makes it difficult to breathe and promotes the growth of microorganisms. The important preventive measure during exercise is to maintain physical distance of at least one meter from others.”
It is important to note that these are just recommendations. Local, state, and national mask orders have the final say.
In the United States, even in states where masks are required, there are differences in whether they are required while exercising. In Massachusetts, everyone is required to wear a mask while in public and social distancing is not possible. Although health clubs recommend masks, the state mandate allows for indoor exercise without masks if social distancing increases to 14 feet.
In Texas, all individuals are required to wear a mask (even while exercising) when maintaining 6 feet of separation is not possible. Finally, in Colorado, the mandate is more general: Any time someone is exercising indoors in the presence of others, all customers must wear masks.
How are clubs around the world dealing with mask wearing?
Mask mandates around the world differ on whether they are required when exercising. For example in Vietnam and parts of China, masks were required at all times when exercising indoors during the height of outbreaks. (Now, these mandates are relaxed, and masks are optional during exercise in Vietnam and cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen in China.) However, in Portugal, Russia, Malaysia, and Hong Kong, masks are required when entering health clubs or in social areas, but are not explicitly required while exercising as long as social distancing is maintained. Many clubs in countries where mask mandates have been relaxed or are not particularly strict still require employees to wear a mask at all times.
Currently, the Australian government does not recommend the general public wear masks when outside their home, but they are issuing mask mandates on a regional basis. For example, the state of Victoria recently directed all people to wear a mask when leaving their home. This requirement does not impact clubs in the region as they are closed under a partial lockdown. Generally, clubs that are open in Australia do not require members to wear masks but do have staff wearing masks in order to protect their customers.
New Zealand has no mandates or even recommendations for mask-wearing due to its incredibly low number of cases and community transmission rates.
How should my club enforce mask requirements?
One of the most difficult questions health club owners face is how to enforce these mask mandates. Particularly in the United States, the politicization of mask-wearing has resulted in viral videos of customers raging against store employees when confronted over their decision not to wear a mask. The incredibly charged nature of the topic makes it very hard for club owners to decide how to enforce mask requirements, but there are steps that owners can take to enforce mask policies safely.