The Effects of Mental Fatigue on Physical Performance: A Systematic Review
- 4.3k Downloads
Mental fatigue is a psychobiological state caused by prolonged periods of demanding cognitive activity. It has recently been suggested that mental fatigue can affect physical performance.
Our objective was to evaluate the literature on impairment of physical performance due to mental fatigue and to create an overview of the potential factors underlying this effect.
Two electronic databases, PubMed and Web of Science (until 28 April 2016), were searched for studies designed to test whether mental fatigue influenced performance of a physical task or influenced physiological and/or perceptual responses during the physical task. Studies using short (<30 min) self-regulatory depletion tasks were excluded from the review.
A total of 11 articles were included, of which six were of strong and five of moderate quality. The general finding was a decline in endurance performance (decreased time to exhaustion and self-selected power output/velocity or increased completion time) associated with a higher than normal perceived exertion. Physiological variables traditionally associated with endurance performance (heart rate, blood lactate, oxygen uptake, cardiac output, maximal aerobic capacity) were unaffected by mental fatigue. Maximal strength, power, and anaerobic work were not affected by mental fatigue.
The duration and intensity of the physical task appear to be important factors in the decrease in physical performance due to mental fatigue. The most important factor responsible for the negative impact of mental fatigue on endurance performance is a higher perceived exertion.
KeywordsEndurance Performance Mental Fatigue Physical Task Corollary Discharge Peripheral Fatigue
Bart Roelands is a post-doctoral fellow of the Fund for Scientific Research.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Jeroen Van Cutsem, Samuele Marcora, Kevin De Pauw, Stephen Bailey, Romain Meeusen, and Bart Roelands declare that the systematic review complies with all ethical standards.
No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.
Conflict of interest
Jeroen Van Cutsem, Samuele Marcora, Kevin De Pauw, Stephen Bailey, Romain Meeusen, and Bart Roelands have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.
- 1.Desmond PA, Hancock PA. Active and passive fatigue states. In: Desmond PA, Hancock PA, editors. Stress, workload and fatigue. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates; 2001. p. 455–65.Google Scholar
- 2.Job RFS, Dalziel J. Defining fatigue as a condition of the organism and distinguishing it from habituation, adaptation and boredom. In: Hancock PA, Desmond PA, editors. Stress, workload and fatigue. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates; 2001. p. 466–75.Google Scholar
- 10.Marcora SM, Staiano W, Manning V. Mental fatigue impairs physical performance in humans. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2009;106(3):857–64.Google Scholar
- 14.Mosso A. Fatigue. London: Allen & Unwin Ltd.; 1915.Google Scholar
- 15.Wilmore J, Costill D, Kenney W. Physiology of sport and exercise. 4th ed. Champaign: Human Kinetics; 2008.Google Scholar
- 19.Thompson K. Pacing: individual strategies for optimal performance. Champaign: Human Kinetics; 2014.Google Scholar
- 33.Kmet LM, Lee RC, Cook LS. standard quality assessment criteria for evaluating primary research papers from a variety of fields. Edmonton: Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research; 2004.Google Scholar
- 39.Marcora SM. Effort: perception of. In: Goldstein EB, editor. Encyclopedia of perception. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications Inc; 2010. p. 380–3.Google Scholar
- 41.Borg GA. Borg’s perceived exertion and pain scales. Champaign: Human Kinetics; 1998.Google Scholar
- 42.Matthews G, Campbell S, Falconer S. Assessment of motivational states in performance environments. In: Proceedings of the human factors and ergonomics society. 45th Annual Meeting, Santa Monica. 2001;45:906–10.Google Scholar
- 45.Grandjean E. Fitting the task to the man. London: Taylor and Francis; 1988.Google Scholar
- 55.Englert C, Wolff W. Ego depletion and persistent performance in a cycling task. Int J Sport Psychol. 2015;46:137–51.Google Scholar
- 63.Marcora S. Perception of effort during exercise is independent of afferent feedback from skeletal muscles, heart, and lungs. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2009;106(6):2060–2.Google Scholar
- 67.Noble BJ, Robertson RJ. Perceived Exertion. Champaign: Human Kinetics; 1996.Google Scholar
- 68.Amann M, Blain GM, Proctor LT, et al. Group III and IV muscle afferents contribute to ventilatory and cardiovascular response to rhythmic exercise in humans. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2010;109(4):966–76.Google Scholar
- 69.de Morree HM, Klein C, Marcora SM. Cortical substrates of the effects of caffeine and time-on-task on perception of effort. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2014;117(12):1514–23.Google Scholar
- 72.Roelands B, Goekint M, Heyman E, et al. Acute norepinephrine reuptake inhibition decreases performance in normal and high ambient temperature. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2008;105(1):206–12.Google Scholar