NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Mask wearing during the pandemic can be a bother and an inconvenience at times but a new study shows how masks actually affect your performance during exercise. These days COVID-19 masks are as much as part of athletics as the basketball, a wrestling mat, or the track.

A new study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests masks are hampering athletic performance. The study compared the performance of 31 adults during an intense treadmill workout with and without a mask.

The results showed masks led to a 14% drop in exercise time and a 29% drop in oxygen consumption or VO2 max. Something the Cleveland High School head boys track coach already knew. “The masks, they do impact performance for sure,” said Kenny Henry.

KRQE News 13 asked the New Mexico Activities Association if the mask rules might be softened or even lifted for some sports. “Studies are being done, but ultimately the orders from the governor’s office is to mask wear and their medical team is advising us that that’s what we need to do in order to compete so those are the orders we will follow,” said Executive Director of NMAA Sally Marquez.

The New Mexico Department of Health says they constantly review the latest literature and COVID studies but for now, have no plans to let athletes take off their masks. “It’s a bummer to think that maybe their performance would be a little better without it, but they’ve done an excellent job being able to do what we do with the mask,” Henry said.

KRQE News 13 also asked the head of NMAA if, with masks, the state championship cross country times were slower compared to last year. Marquez says this year’s event was run on a very different course, so it wasn’t possible to compare.