How does fatigue work?



What if we were to discover that fatigue really doesn’t exist? Or that, at least scientifically, it doesn’t work the way we think. That’s exactly what a study carried out by Samuele Marcora, published on Frontiers in Human Neuroscience and picked up by the New Yorker suggests: that human beings under physical exertion never actually reach their true limit. Then why does the strain of carrying out certain activities makes us stop?

According to the study, fatigue only gets to us when our brain finds a balance between the effort we are making and the motivation we need to accomplish our goal: the decision is therefore a conscious choice, Marcora explains, even though admitting it to ourselves is not an easy task. It’s more of a technical glitch in what otherwise would be considered a perfect machine, the human body.

A machine that needs to take into account a tremendously high number of factors, such as external temperature, hydration levels, the state muscles are in. These are key-factors that can affect one’s performance, yet their effect is mediated and mitigated by the perception the subject has of the undertaken effort. If the reward, the final goal, is really worth it, we’ll find a way to achieve it regardless.