Effects of physical and mental task demands on cervical and upper limb muscle activity and physiological responses during computer tasks and recovery periods

Yuling Wang, Grace P Y Szeto, Che Hin Chan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


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) copytyping ("typing"), (2) typing at progressively faster speed ("pacing"), (3) mental arithmetic plus fast typing ("subtraction"). Typing task was performed Wrst, 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 signiWcant diVerences 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 signiWcant diVerences among three tasks. All muscles showed reduced activity to about the baseline level within Wrst 5 min of the rest periods. Heart rate and blood pressure showed signiWcant diVerences during tasks compared to baseline, and diastolic pressure was signiWcantly 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2791-2803
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2011


  • Blood pressure
  • Electromyography
  • Heart rate
  • Mental stress
  • Physical stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)

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