There are a lot of things to think about as you prepare for a run or bike ride. Chief among these many factors is safety. That’s why runners and riders can spend a lot of time (and money) finding equipment to keep them hydrated, visible, and even protected on their favorite roads and sidewalks. But here’s something very few people have considered until recently: air pollution. It’s why many runners and bikers use air pollution masks.
When you’re working hard, you’re breathing heavy. And when the air you breathe is dirty or polluted, that can lead to some unfortunate health risks.
Air Pollution Effects on Runners and Bikers
Running outside is always recommended. It’s a great workout and, despite its risks, it’s one of the best ways to maintain your personal health. But there are risks. Running or biking outside can indeed subject you to dirty or polluted air more frequently than people who work out inside, where there’s proper air filtration. It’s true. Air pollution causes damage.
Depending on what exactly you’re breathing in, exercising outside could put you at risk for (or exacerbate) asthma, risk of stroke and heart attack, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and even cancer. The particulate in polluted air might be microscopic, but air pollution effects on your fitness performance and health could be enormous.
Don’t worry! It’s not all hopeless! There are steps you can take to be safer while running and biking, and one of them is gaining in popularity. Consider buying yourself an anti-pollution mask! They can help you fight back against air pollution and the various issues pollution causes.
If the pollution is simply too much for you, exercise indoors. Just be sure to test and have good indoor air quality.
How an Air Pollution Mask Works to Filter Out Pollution
Air pollution masks aren’t very complicated. You might see words like “sub-micron filter” and “contaminate” thrown around, but the truth is: these masks are pretty straightforward. The idea is to keep very small particles called particulate — the stuff that gets thrown into the air by things like car exhausts — out of your lungs.
Particulate is almost impossible to see while it’s floating through the air, but it’s made up of solid stuff. Anti-pollution masks use filters to capture solid material from entering your lungs, which keeps you from breathing in stuff that could make you sick or damage your lung function.
There are a variety of mask types. Here are the different kinds you might see around the digital marketplace. (Keep in mind, these are the technical names. Some companies may use these terms interchangeably!)
Pollution Masks for Exercise
These air pollution masks are designed to fit around the mouth and nose. Usually, they’re sold to be as stylish as they are functional, so expect them to have fashionable designs. Despite their lightweight, they’re packed in with filters that’ll stay functional for a few months of hard, everyday use before you need to buy a new mask (or change the filters). They’re made for exercise and comfort, but keep in mind that they’ll make breathing a lot harder when you’re working out. So there may be an adjustment period.
Pollution Masks (Non-Exercise)
More popularly known as “gas masks,” these bulky contraptions come with heavy-duty filters designed for very serious situations. These masks usually come equipped with a full-face mask and detachable external filters. These are not recommended for working out, mainly because you should save them for emergencies, but also because they’re expensive and not designed for laborious activity.
These are often confused with dust masks (below). Respirators are usually worn by painters, landscapers, and other professionals that deal with particulate as part of their jobs. They fit over the nose and mouth and hold in place with straps around the ears. They’re great for filtering out air particulates, but they aren’t recommended for working out, either. In some cases, getting these can also require contact with an industrial supplier. You can tell respirators from dust masks by the filters respirators have in the mouth cover.
Also known as “nuisance masks” or “surgical masks,” these are the sorts of masks you’ve probably seen most often. They’re the white masks that people slap on when they’re sick. These masks are typically pretty flimsy and don’t have a filter like the rest of the entries here. Effective to a degree and cheap, dust masks aren’t recommended for strenuous activities like working out.
So, which ones should you use for working out? Have no fear! Here are our 11 top choices!
Top 11 Best Air Pollution Masks for Running and Biking
Consider consulting your medical team or healthcare provider before using one of these air pollution masks. They can make breathing more difficult, which can be a factor for people already suffering from lung issues or other breathing-related illnesses/injuries.
Base Camp is an industry leader when it comes to face masks. This air pollution mask carries a unique double-layer melt-blown design that promises BFE (bacterial and viral) 99% filtration. In layman’s terms, it’s the best filter you can get on a mask of this type. It is made of comfortable materials that prevent fogging of glasses, making breathing and vision far easier than usual masks of this type. It’s very easy to replace the filters and is washable/reusable, which is hard to beat! Some users have complained that the masks run a little large.
- 99.4% FILTRATION: Adopted EAPI filter technology and Advanced Nanotechnology, BASE CAMP respirator mask works with 6-layer filters to block 99.4% exhaust gas, dust, pollen, allergens, odors, pollutants, and other airborne particles (Note: the already mounted filter is an example only, plz replace it with new filter when wearing your dust mask)
- BREATHE SMOOTHLY: This air filter mask with valve utilizes high-quality mesh materials that is 11.3% more breathable, strengthens the ability of air circulation, dissipates heat, also reduces moisture inside the mask with filter to ensure smooth breathing
- DESIGN UPGRADED: To achieve better comfort, the hook and loop of this mask for dust was combined with elastic band system to easily extend or shorten the protection mask's neck band to fit your neck comfortably
Another very durable and highly-recommended mask! This ETGLCOZY mask uses an earloop design rather than the typical “around the face” design, meaning the mask has a lower chance of sliding off. That’s especially handy if you’re using it for running or riding! It’s highly elastic, adjustable, and easy to maintain as well. The mask uses low-profile Velcro to fit, which is great! Just keep in mind that a comfortable, tight fit is the only way the mask will work to its best ability. Test the fit by giving a hard blow from your mouth. You shouldn’t feel any air escape the mask from anywhere but the exhaust vents.
- 【Mesh Construction + Activated Carbon Filter】- The Dust Mask is made of nylon, which offers excellent permeability. The lightweight air face mask is comfortable and breathable to wear in hot weather. The filter is made of five layers of non-woven and activated charcoal microfiber.
- 【Low Breathing Resistance】- Double air breathing valve, excellent permeability and exhale, the valve of work out mask is opened without resistance.
- 【Reusable Filter Mask】- The dust breathing mask and valve are washable and reusable when get dirty.Super easy to change the filters cotton by yourself.
Anqier’s mask is made of comfortable nylon and is designed to be versatile. This mask is made to be just as effective for running or biking outside as it is for dusting the appliances in your house. It’s made of comfortable nylon and is very breathable (without letting in particulate!). Anqier also has a great, no-hassle return policy and a year-long replacement warranty. The mask does use an over-the-ear style band, which some people have reported as causing the mask to feel odd, but it offers great protection!
Another great mask here! It’s your typical dust mask, made for comfort! The nose clip is adjustable, which is great for a customized fit. This can make breathing through the nose a bit harder, though. The mask uses an under-the-ear, around-the-neck style strap that can make the mask slip off if there’s a lot of bouncing going on. Consider this mask for biking more than running, but it can work for either!
Besungo’s mask is an absolutely excellent air pollution mask for the athlete. That’s because it’s specifically meant designed for outdoor exercise. The mask is made from stretchy, flexible nylon and can be adjusted to fit anybody! It doesn’t come in a variety of colors, but it does have a very sleek look. The five extra filters don’t hurt either! The only complaint issued by this mask is the initial smell. Right out of the box, it has an industrial sort of smell to it. Give it a wash (without filters) to clear that up.
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This FIGHTECH mask is another excellent choice. Users have touted its comfortable earloop design, its sleek appearance, and its incredible filtration. The mask is very easy to take care of and the filters are surprisingly simple to switch out. This mask will protect you very well against air pollution, however, it only comes with 2 filters. On the flip side, they offer full refunds and have great customer support.
- Helps Healthy Breathing: This air filtration mask is designed for comfortable protection against non-toxic dust, pollen, fumes, common airborne irritants and other non oil based particles. Great addition to your wood working tools and equipment.
- Universal Usage: Use this anti pollution mask for home improvement projects: as a paint mask (non-oil based), woodworking masks for dust protection, mask for cleaning, smoke mask, sanding mask, face mask construction workers, etc. It can also be used as mask to filter pollens. Also, our customers use the face mask for running and cycling.
- Improved Design: Unlike previously designed filter masks, our new half mask implements the Earloop design preventing the pollution mask from slipping off and equipped the face mask with filter and two one-way discharge valves to reduce heat build-up inside the pollution mask.
The Pioneeryao Sports mask is another solid contender. Like almost all the other masks on this list, it’s made for comfort and specifically for outdoor exercise. You can rest assured that this mask will keep you safe while running or biking, but also for climbing, hiking, or just your morning walk! Some users have struggled with the fit of this mask, so be sure to evaluate this against other masks.
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Designed to be versatile and lightweight, this mask is everything you need in pollution protection while working out. Its seal helps ensure you won’t fog up glasses or goggles during use and it’s breathable enough to use in hot weather. The size is easily adjustable and it uses a hook-and-loop fasten, which makes it more snug than most masks of its type. Some customers have reported a strong chemical smell when it comes straight out of the box. Let it sit out for a while and wash it (without filters) to solve this problem.
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This mask is designed for outdoor activity and its activated carbon filter promises to remove up to 95% of dust, pollen, chemicals, and heavy metal particulates. It’s a great mask. Aside from having excellent protection, this mask offers a snug fit with its hook and loop design. It is also washable (just don’t wash the filters).
Focused on cycling, the WISREMT cycling face mask provides good breathability with an ergonomic fit. Using PVC Memory Foam for the nose to prevent slippage, the goal is to not be fidgeting with the mask while riding. Recent shipments have had some quality issues, but this may be due to the same Coronavirus based quality issues other mask makers have from rushing products out the door.
- Delivery Time: Arrive within 1-2 weeks. Please ignore the estimated delivery date, the exact delivery time is subject to the actual delivery time!
- Made of Nylon mesh, this cycling face mask feels soft, lightweight, quick dry, breathable and comfortable. The ergonomic design will bring a sense of security when you are cycling.
- When you are cycling, the face mask, whose surface sits dual one-way breathing valves, can help you breathe freely without breathing in the harmful air. The face mask is designed to match your face and there is the PVC memory resetting nose pad, which is uneasy to break or deform, to avoid it falling down.
We’re putting this mask on the list for the people out there looking for heavy-duty protection. This mask is a big, hulking beast designed to provide maximum protection from air particulate. It isn’t designed for hard workouts, so we wouldn’t recommend it if you’re running or biking hard out there, but it’ll give you solid protection if you’re keeping it casual. It uses thick straps to stay tight to your face. But remember, this one is for function, not fashion. You might turn heads, but they might be turning because of your fashion-forward style.
- Range of extremely light masks (130g), that fit perfectly to the shape of the face, without hindering the user
- A unique and low profile filter, designed to fit the contours of your face to give the user the an unobstructed field of vision
- Low breathing resistance to reduce the risk of user fatigue and to add additional comfort, thanks to pleated HEPA filters
No matter which air pollution mask you choose, it’s always a good idea to protect yourself from harmful air pollutants. The last thing you want is to get sick while you work out. That defeats the whole point! As always, ensure you’re doing thorough research and really finding the product that best suits your needs. This list is made of the eleven best masks we could find, but it isn’t exhaustive. We can’t cover everyone’s needs (though we try).
Be safe out there, protect yourself, and have fun choosing your new mask!