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Both physical and mental demands, and their interactions, have been shown to increase biomechanical loading and physiological reactivity as well as impair task performance. Because these interactions have shown to be muscle-dependent, the aim of this study was to determine the sensitivity of the NASA Task Load Index (NASA TLX) and Ratings of Perceived Exertion (RPE) to evaluate physical and mental workload during muscle-specific tasks. Twenty-four participants performed upper extremity and low back exertions at three physical workload levels in the absence and presence of a mental stressor. Outcome measures included RPE and NASA TLX (six sub-scales) ratings. The findings indicate that while both RPEs and NASA TLX ratings were sensitive to muscle-specific changes in physical demand, only an additional mental stressor and its interaction with either physical demand or muscle groups influenced the effort sub-scale and overall workload scores of the NASA TLX. While additional investigations in actual work settings are warranted, the NASA TLX shows promise in evaluating perceived workload that is sensitive not only to physical and mental demands but also sensitive in determining workload for tasks that employ different muscle groups.

author list (cited authors)
Mehta, R. K., & Agnew, M. J.
publication date
  • BackFemaleHumansMaleMuscle ContractionPhysical ExertionStress, PsychologicalTask Performance And AnalysisUpper ExtremityWorkloadYoung AdultMentalworkload,NASATLXPhysicalworkload,RPEMental WorkloadNASA TLXPhysical WorkloadRPE