One of the possible fitness masks created by Reebok.

It’s hard enough to breathe through a face mask while shopping at a supermarket. So wearing one to exercise presents an added challenge.

Reebok is hoping to address that issue by enlisting the help of outside experts to work with its design team to conceptualize masks that could be specifically targeted to everyday fitness enthusiasts as well as extreme athletes.

The Boston-based brand worked with Dr. Emily Kraus, clinical assistant professor at Stanford Children’s Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Center and an ultra-marathoner, as well as elite runners from Reebok’s Boston Track Club on the potential concepts for masks should they be required by athletes in the future.

The masks would address issues such as breathability, discomfort, inability to show facial expression, and a host of other complications. The concepts could also address technological innovations such as fitness app integrations.

“Our designers are some of the most innovative creators in the world and we are always designing with fitness in mind,” said Don Albert, senior director, Reebok Creation Center Europe. “With this challenge, we gave them complete freedom to think about masks not just as something we’ll be required to wear in the future, but something that truly adds value, function and style for our consumers. The concepts the team created are proof that it is often during the toughest times that true innovation takes place.”

The masks are purely conceptual at this point, a company spokesperson said, and there are no immediate plans to bring them to market.

Another conceptual Reebok fitness face mask.

Another conceptual Reebok fitness face mask. 

The fitness industry has been especially hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic with gyms and other traditional sports shut down since the crisis started.

In a report issued by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association on Thursday, over 70 percent of sport and fitness manufacturers and businesses reported a sales drop of 25 percent for April compared to last year. In addition, 30 percent of respondents reported a sales decline of over 75 percent.

The only bright spot, the report found, was home fitness equipment and at-home sports equipment.

Some 81 percent of respondents said they also experienced disruptions in their supply chain as well as their fulfillment and distribution centers.

Despite the downturn, however, most respondents expect fitness clubs and boutiques to open within the next one to three months and team sports returning in the fall, allowing for a sales pickup in the second half.

“It is not news that the pandemic struck our industry hard,” said Tom Cove, president and chief executive officer of SFIA. “But the immediacy and magnitude of the decline of sales across so many categories was dramatic. That said, this survey does identify hopeful signs, especially in the confidence respondents showed in predicting increased sales in the second half of this year. We will conduct this new survey on a monthly basis to identify what is working and track how the industry is evolving.”

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