Assessment of physical strain in younger and older subjects using heart rate and scalings of perceived exertion

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Physical strain is usually evaluated physiologically by using the heart rate (HR) or psychologically using scaled perceived exertion (PE). In order to explore the relationship between these approaches, we compared the series of both measurements taken simultaneously during work on a bicycle ergometer. A total of 29 participants aged between 27 and 41, 42 and 56, and 57 and 71 years took part in 28 minutes of cycling with systematically increased and decreased load as well as in 7 hours of continuous cycling with low to medium exertion, interrupted by brief peak loads at high to very high exertion levels. Results revealed that, while both measurements are suitable to capture physical strain, HR is not as specific as PE. The older participants further perceived comparable physical loads as more demanding as the younger participants. With an aging workforce, results have potential implications for the organisation of work places. Practitioner Summary: The organisation of work processes is a key issue in the prevention of strain and hence of interest to ergonomists. Our study suggests that workers can, independent of age, perform physical work all day as long as they work at subjectively equal, moderate intensities.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)1052-1067
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 07.2014