Mental fatigue or peripheral muscle fatigue: what are the differences?

Tempo de Leitura: 2 minutos

Probably all of us, after an intense training session, whether bodybuilding, running, crossfit or swimming, we are already left with that pain that makes it difficult even to perform basic tasks from day to day and that prevents us from surrendering to the maximum in the next training. Usually this feeling of tiredness and physical ineptitude may be related to the individual’s physical capacity, inadequate diet, or dehydration. However, one factor that is often not taken into account is the mental aspect, which plays a key role during physical exercise. Mental fatigue or peripheral muscle fatigue: what are the differences?

Mental fatigue

A long and stressful working day, a bad night’s sleep, anxiety or personal problems are elements that are not directly related to physical exercise, but that can negatively affect the individual’s neural activity. Muscle contraction occurs through the neural control we have over the muscles, so if neural activity is out of balance, muscle perception and control can be impaired, negatively interfering with physical performance.

Mind and muscle

As stated in the above point, our muscle capacity is directly influenced by the mind. Muscle fatigue is related to exacerbated depletion of energy reserves and onset of symptoms, mainly related to pain and extreme tiredness. Mental fatigue, on the other hand, does not depend on physiological issues to manifest itself, but the perception of pain and tiredness may appear as in muscle fatigue, precisely because of this “disharmony” between mind and muscle. This is why many professionals and researchers have difficulty differentiating them.

Clinical practice on mental fatigue or peripheral muscle fatigue

A correct diet, hydration, good nights of sleep, training protocol appropriate to one’s own abilities and objectives, are indispensable thinking about the prevention of fatigue and maximum potentiation of physical performance, and should be considered in the patient’s dietary planning.

In addition, the professional is responsible for attention and support to the psychological, sometimes neglected, but of fundamental importance considering the optimization of performance and especially the well-being of the individual.


Reading suggestion: Muscle recovery

Sesboüé B, Guincestre JY. Muscular fatigue. Ann Readapt Med Phys. 2006;49(6):257-354. doi:10.1016/j.annrmp.2006.04.021

Tornero-Aguilera JF, J Jimenez-Morcillo, Rubio-Zarapuz A, Clemente-Suárez VJ. Central and Peripheral Fatigue in Physical Exercise Explained: A Narrative Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022;19(7):3909. Published 2022 Mar 25. Doi:10.3390/ijerph19073909

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