The present study examined the effects of physical and mental workload during computer tasks on muscle activity and physiological measures. Activity in cervical postural muscles and distal forearm muscles, heart rate and blood pressure were compared among three tasks and rest periods of 15 min each in an experimental study design. Fourteen healthy pain-free adults participated (7 males, mean age = 23.2 ± 3.0 years) and the tasks were: (1) copy-typing ("typing"), (2) typing at progressively faster speed ("pacing"), (3) mental arithmetic plus fast typing ("subtraction"). Typing task was performed first, followed by the other two tasks in a random order. Median muscle activity (50th percentile) was examined in 5-min intervals during each task and each rest period, and statistically significant differences in the "time" factor (within task) and time × task factors was found in bilateral cervical erector spinae and upper trapezius muscles. In contrast, distal forearm muscle activity did not show any significant differences among three tasks. All muscles showed reduced activity to about the baseline level within first 5 min of the rest periods. Heart rate and blood pressure showed significant differences during tasks compared to baseline, and diastolic pressure was significantly higher in the subtraction than pacing task. The results suggest that cervical postural muscles had higher reactivity than forearm muscles to high mental workload tasks, and cervical muscles were also more reactive to tasks with high physical demand compared to high mental workload. Heart rate and blood pressure seemed to respond similarly to high physical and mental workloads. Copyright © 2011 Springer-Verlag.
CitationWang, Y., Szeto, G. P. Y., & Chan, C. C. H. (2011). Effects of physical and mental task demands on cervical and upper limb muscle activity and physiological responses during computer tasks and recovery periods. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 111, 2791-2803. doi: 10.1007/s00421-011-1908-1
- Mental stress
- Physical stress
- Heart rate
- Blood pressure