Integration of active pauses and pattern of muscular activity during computer work

Submaximal isometric muscle contractions have been reported to increase variability of muscle activation during computer work; however, other types of active contractions may be more beneficial. Our objective was to determine which type of active pause vs. rest is more efficient in changing muscle activity pattern during a computer task. Asymptomatic regular computer users performed a standardised 20-min computer task four times, integrating a different type of pause: sub-maximal isometric contraction, dynamic contraction, postural exercise and rest. Surface electromyographic (SEMG) activity was recorded bilaterally from five neck/shoulder muscles. Root-mean-square decreased with isometric pauses in the cervical paraspinals, upper trapezius and middle trapezius, whereas it increased with rest. Variability in the pattern of muscular activity was not affected by any type of pause. Overall, no detrimental effects on the level of SEMG during active pauses were found suggesting that they could be implemented without a cost on activation level or variability.

Source: St-Onge, N., Samani, A., & Madeleine, P. (2017). Ergonomics.

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