Thinking hard is exhausting

May 16, 2013 by
Filed under: Research, Spinewave Bulletin 

chiropractic computer desk fatigueA new study suggests thinking hard can actually wear you out.

Wondering why you’re so drained when all you did today was sit in front of the computer? A new study headed by Samuele Marcora, a University of Kent Professor of Exercise Physiology, suggests that thinking hard can actually leave your body exhausted.

Researchers tested subjects on one of two tasks: playing a mentally challenging computer test and watching documentaries. After 90 minutes, the subjects hopped on bikes and worked until exhaustion.

The documentary-watching group was able to peddle longer than those who did the computer test.

While the mentally exhausted group gave up peddling faster than the documentary group, there was no difference in their cardiovascular response (heart rate, respiration, and blood glucose levels). Reseachers concluded that this had to do with a perception of how difficult a physical task is.

The study raises questions about our ability to maintain resilience and the momentum of our working pace – maybe we’d benefit from a little neutral brain work during the day, like the documentary group was subjected to. For ideas about how to incorporate a mindful break into your day, you might, for example, want to try out this two-minute mindfulness practice from Elisha Goldstein.

Reference: Marcora, S. et al. Mental fatigue impairs physical performance in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2009. Vol. 106 No. 3 857-864.

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