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Temporal strategy and performance during a fatiguing short-cycle repetitive task

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This study investigated temporal changes in movement strategy and performance during fatiguing short-cycle work. Eighteen participants performed six 7-min work blocks with repetitive reaching movements at 0.5 Hz, each followed by a 5.5-min rest break for a total duration of 1 h. Electromyography (EMG) was collected continuously from the upper trapezius muscle, the temporal movement strategy and timing errors were obtained on a cycle-to-cycle basis, and perceived fatigue was rated before and after each work block. Clear signs of fatigue according to subjective ratings and EMG manifestations developed within each work block, as well as during the entire hour. For most participants, timing errors gradually increased, as did the waiting time at the near target. Changes in temporal movement strategy were negatively correlated with changes in the level and variability of EMG, suggesting that an adaptive temporal strategy offset the development of unstable motor solutions in this fatiguing, short-cycle work.

Practitioner Summary: Sustained performance of operators is essential to maintain competitiveness. In this study of repetitive work, participants gradually changed their temporal movement strategy, for possibly alleviating the effects of fatigue. This suggests that in order to effectively counteract fatigue and sustain performance, industrial production should allow extensive spatial and temporal flexibility.
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Keywords: EMG; fatigue; performance; repetitive work; temporal movement strategy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: TNO Healthy Living, Hoofddorp, The Netherlands 2: Centre for Musculoskeletal Research, Department of Occupational and Public Health Sciences,University of Gävle, SE-80176,Gävle, Sweden 3: Research Institute Move, Faculty of Human Movement Sciences, VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands 4: [email protected], Research Center Physical Activity, Work and Health, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Publication date: August 1, 2012

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