Activity–rest schedules in physically demanding work and the variation of responses with age

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Workers in physically demanding occupations require work breaks to recover from exertion. In a laboratory setting, we investigated the impact of ergometer cycling for 7 h in two conditions with an identical total break time but with two different activity-rest schedules. We hypothesised that more frequent but shorter breaks lead to less psychophysical strain and its effects than do less frequent but longer breaks, particularly for older workers. Twenty-nine participants representing three different age groups were tested in both conditions. Heart rate, perceived exertion/tension and feelings of fatigue were assessed and used as dependent variables. Results indicate no general activity-rest differences as well as no age-related differences of break effects under the condition of subjectively equal straining load. However, heart rate was found to be lower at some measurement points in the frequent-short-break condition and perceived exertion was lower in the infrequent-long-break condition. Practitioner Summary: Design of activity-rest schedules in physically demanding occupations is a key issue in the prevention of strain and hence of interest to ergonomists. Our study suggests that breaks during physically demanding work have the same effect if they are frequent and short or infrequent and long, regardless of age.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)282-294
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 03.2012

    Research areas

  • Business psychology - activity-rest schedules, aging workforces, heart rate, perceived exertion, physical work