19 May 2022

Weighty issues

Walkers’ cognitive function can be affected by the weight of their backpack, a study has found. Researchers examined effects on the performance of three basic short-term/working memory tasks carried out while participants headed along a pre-determined route. 

Four different backpack weight levels of 0%, 15%, 25% and 40% of body mass were used and 30 people took part in the study. The findings revealed that a heavier weight meant a worse performance in two of the tasks. 

Reducing the load could boost performance during physical-cognitive multitasking, especially for visuospatial processing and executive control. This could have implications for the design of equipment worn by workers such as police, firefighters and soldiers.

The report, published in the journal Ergonomics, said: “The design of body-worn equipment must consider both physical and cognitive task performance criteria in order to adequately support work activities of those who perform physical-cognitive multitasking.”

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