The influence of rest break frequency and duration on physical performance and psychophysiological responses: a mining simulation study

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2022 Jun 21. doi: 10.1007/s00421-022-04979-3. Online ahead of print.


PURPOSE: To investigate the influence of shorter, more frequent rest breaks during simulated work (outdoor mining) in the heat on physical performance and psychophysiological responses.

METHODS: On separate days, thirteen males undertook two 225 min simulation trials in the afternoon (12.00-3.45 pm) including 180 min of treadmill walking at a constant rate of perceived exertion of 11 (or ‘light’) on the 6-20 Borg scale in a heat chamber (37 °C, 40% RH), interspersed with 45 min of rest breaks in an air-conditioned room (22 °C, 35% RH). Rest breaks in the current practice (CP) trial occurred at 1.00 and 2.30 pm (30 min and 15 min, respectively), while in the experimental (EXP) trial were at 1.00 (15 min), 1.45, 2.25 and 3.05 pm (10 min each).

RESULTS: Total distance covered was not different (p = 0.086) between CP (12,858 ± 2207 m) and EXP (12,094 ± 2174 m). Heart rate, thermal sensation and thermal comfort were significantly higher at 120-180 min (all p < 0.05) in CP compared to EXP. Moderate- to large-effect sizes (Hedge’s g) between trials were also found at 120-180 min for core temperature (g = 0.50 and 0.99, respectively). No differences were found between trials for cognitive performance, perceived fatigue, urine specific gravity, or total water intake (p > 0.05).

CONCLUSION: Shorter, more frequent rest breaks have little impact on physical performance, thermal strain and exercise-related sensations. Current practices should remain in place until further studies can be conducted on an actual mine site during summer where outdoor workers perform their work duties.

PMID:35727402 | DOI:10.1007/s00421-022-04979-3

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