Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Borg's Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

This scale was created to help people gauge their level of exertion and to use it in exercise testing when heart rates are unreliable or unable to be obtained. You may have seen a copy of the category-ratio scale in your local gym or favorite fitness magazine. This is most widely used in fitness classes and the like to help participants figure out how hard they should be working. As mentioned in the article about exercise and pregnancy, the RPE scale is a great tool for gauging exertion level as heart rate has not been shown to be the best indicator. Here are the two scales.


  1. I like using this method rather than heart rate. Do you have a chart that tells what your ability to talk would be at each up to 12: can still carry on a conversation, but at some point you can no longer speak in complete sentences?

  2. Yes, can you explain this a little more (like "Erin's Mom" suggested). Out of curiosity, why is this a better method than heart rate? Is this because as your fitness level improves, your heart works more efficiently? So, absolute bpm doesn't correlate as well to amount of exertion from person-to-person?

  3. Thanks for these great questions Erin'smom and statmom! First, to answer your questions statmom, it isn't necessarily a better method than heart rate except in a few instances. During pregnancy, it is a better method than heart rate because (due to many vascular changes) heart rate varies. Also, no studies have been able to find a "cut-off" for heart rate that indicates increased danger to the baby. So, it has been concluded that it is more appropriate to judge intensity on how the exerciser feels (using the RPE scale) rathern than heart rate. Also there are other instances in which the heart rate cannot be obtained. In exercise testing, heart rate AND RPE is generally obtained. Also, RPE is a great way to judge intensity when you don't have the equipment to accurately obtain heart rate when in an exercise class or something of the like.

  4. I would like to add the other information to my chart, but will have to have my husband take a look at it. I usually tell him what I want on my charts and he works the "computer magic". Anyhow, until then, here is further info!

    I will give you the numbers for the category scale first, then the category-ratio scale.

    9 and 1 correlate to easy, comfortable, slow walking pace, you should be able to carry on a conversation

    13 and 3 correlate to quite an effort, but you can still continue. YOu can speak in short sentences.

    15 and 5 correlate to a very heavy workout. You can say words, but not sentences.

    17 and 7 correlates to very strenuous and you are feeling quite fatigued. You may be able to say a word here or there, but not much.

    19 and 10 correlates to extreme intensity. You can only continue this for a few seconds. You cannot speak.

    I hope this helps! Thanks again for this great question!!