French sports giant to launch exercise face masks

French brand Decathlon says its masks will be breathable but also offer a high level of filtration protection, and could help gyms to reopen faster

15 February 2021
A woman wears a mask while exercising. French sports giant to launch exercise face masksThe masks will be designed especially for use during sports and exercise, and could lead to gyms opening earlier if approved
By Hannah Thompson

French sports giant Decathlon is to begin manufacturing face masks suitable for wearing during exercise, after the national safety standards agency published official directives for their design.

Decathlon is now beginning production and is set to start selling the masks in the second third of 2021.

Manufacturing began after French standards agency l'Association française de normalisation (Afnor) published a list of official conditions for the creation of the masks, on February 13.

Decathlon launched a “pre-study” on the mask in June 2020, in partnership with the CHU hospital in Lille. The mask is designed for comfort while still enabling a high level of filtration protection.

It comes as the World Health Organisation has previously advised against wearing masks during exercise, due to the risk of reduced breathing capacity.

These masks, however, will be designed to be worn safely and comfortably by people doing exercise and will be made mainly with recycled polyester material.

They will be available in several sizes to ensure a proper fit and will be washable up to 10 times before needing to be replaced.

The mask could help gyms and sports halls to reopen earlier than otherwise, pending approval by the Sports Ministry and health authority la Haute Autorité de Santé.

 

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Decathlon is not the only company working on exercise masks; French sports brand Salomon has been working on a mask for eight months. Theirs will be made with breathable material that is still said to offer high filtration protection at category 1 level - the highest available for fabric masks.

Guillaume Meyzenc, a vice-president at Salomon, said that he imagined masks could be required at ski lifts and in ski resorts, and also for athletes training at a high level.

He said: "We also thought that even in an epidemic on the decline, organisers of trail runs and marathons could require competitors to wear masks.”

Their masks include a little plastic grille between the mouth and the fabric, which avoids the mask getting damp due to breathing out.

Mr Meyzenc said: "Our tests have shown that you can run [while wearing the masks] for 45 minutes at an average speed of 15kph."

There are also plans to expand the range, and offer masks for bike riding and racquet sports, as well as those suitable for indoor gyms.

'Balance between breathability and protection'

In late January, Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu said: “Work around this sports mask is already a big step forward, and represents cooperation between Decathlon, [sports union l’Union sport et cycle] USC, and the Sports Ministry.

“We have invested so that Afnor can create this norm, which will allow manufacturers to be in a position to make this mask.”

She explained: “[The mask] must find a balance between breathability and necessary protection. I have nothing but support for such a project, as it is a tool to allow us to go back to exercise, and will allow gyms especially to reopen [and allow] users to be as protected as when we go into a shop or use public transport.”

The minister tweeted her thanks to Afnor, USC, and Decathlon after the standardisation norms were published.

An exact date for the reopening of sports centres has not been announced but Ms Maracineanu said she would issue an update as soon as possible, as “exercise is an essential activity for the health of the public”.

Currently in France, only outdoor exercise is allowed, with all barrier gestures being followed. Evening exercise has been effectively outlawed, due to the 18:00 nationwide curfew.

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