Masking Up While Working Out


Jada Harris, Staff Writer

Exercise is key to a healthy life. In the wake of COVID-19, the same can be said for wearing a mask. However, throughout the coronavirus pandemic, there has been an ongoing debate over whether it is safe or not to wear a mask while exercising. To many, the mix of heavy breathing and a mask can feel suffocating. While that is a very uncomfortable feeling, masks are still vital to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at Deerfield High School. This dilemma prompted the Physical Education Department to take a step back and reimagine what heart rate days would now look like at DHS. 

As every student at DHS has probably heard at least a hundred times, “This is the year of flexibility.” According to Mr. Pechter, the head of Physical Education at DHS, this statement held true when discussing how PE and heart rate days would work this year. There was seemingly no solution, and the Physical Education Department almost canceled heart rate days for the school year to avoid high-intensity workouts in masks. However, this idea was quickly discarded. Mr. Pechter made it clear that the overarching goal was to benefit the students the most, and even if it doesn’t feel like it, heart rate days are paramount for teenagers. Once the department established that heart rate days would still be happening, the struggle was trying to find a way to do it as safely and comfortably as possible with masks. 

Clearly, this is not a black-and-white issue with a clean-cut solution. Allowing students to exercise without masks is a safety hazard and may increase the spread of COVID-19, but getting rid of heart rate days as a whole can also be detrimental to students. However, the situation is not as helpless as it may appear, and the PE teachers have been working hard to make it as comfortable as possible. There are also some tips and tricks to make heart rate days in a mask much easier.

Ms. Settles, a PE teacher at the school, decided to adapt heart rate days to fit the mask requirements. While heart rate monitoring used to last for 20 minutes, Ms. Settles made the decision to only require 15 minutes for her students. “Exercising in a mask can be really challenging,” she recognized, “and I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable by having to wear one, but I also know we need heart rate days.” Other PE teachers have also made this time adjustment. Although they are being less restrictive with the timing, they still hold high expectations for their students. Ms. Settles explained, “While I’m being lenient about the time they have to be in the heart rate zone, I’m not being lenient about not reaching their target heart rate zone. Students must still get in the zone in order to be rewarded their points.” PE teachers have also tried to help students by providing spare disposable masks in the PERC so that students don’t have to go the rest of the day wearing masks drenched in sweat. This ensures that students will not have to face any discomfort. 


Additionally, focusing on breathing patterns while working out can have profound benefits. Jackie Canan, senior director of group exercise for the YMCA of Greater Brandywine, suggests taking deeper, slower inhales through the nose as well as slower exhales. This prevents people from getting lightheaded from their masks and makes workouts more successful. This also stops the feeling of being suffocated by a mask, a common experience if wearing one while breathing heavily. Inhaling and exhaling through the nose will also help decrease the amount of moisture that accumulates in the mask. Many students complain about the gross and sweaty feeling of working out in a mask, so this technique is key to minimizing that discomfort. Moreover, there are some companies such as Under Armor that design masks specifically for reducing discomfort during a workout. If students are involved with sports or have been struggling significantly during heart rate days, then purchasing one of these masks may be the best option. 

Although masks may not be the most comfortable thing in the world to wear, they are crucial in helping to keep students safe. Following these tips and purchasing the right mask makes ALL the difference!