Rate of perceived exertion (RPE) is a way to measure the level of exertion a person feels during physical activity.

RPE is a useful tool that helps people manage the intensity of their physical exercise. When reporting RPE, individuals usually use the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale.

The scale ranges from 6 to 20, allowing people to give a number rating on how they are feeling. A person can determine their level by reflecting on how fast their heart is beating, how hard they are breathing, and more.

Read more to learn about the Borg RPE scale, how to use it, and more.

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The Borg scale was the creation of Swedish scientist Gunnar Borg in the 1960s. He was interested in defining how a person’s perceived, or felt, exertion related to their body’s physical response.

The 15-point scale ranges from 6 to 20, with 6 representing no exertion and 20 indicating maximum exertion. Each point on the scale correlates to how much exertion a person feels.

Perceived exertion derives from the physical markers an individual may experience. These include:

  • increased heart rate
  • increased breathing rate
  • increased sweating
  • muscle fatigue

When using the scale, it is important that a person takes into account how they feel as a whole, rather than focusing on one particular marker.

The table below summarizes ratings from the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale.

When exercising, a person should aim for a rating between 12 and 16, which refers to the “moderate activity” level. If an individual is rating at 19 or higher, they need to reduce the intensity of their workout to avoid potential injury or overexertion.

RatingHow the exertion feels
6No exertion at all: doing nothing or resting
7.5Extremely light exertion: slightly increased heart rate
9Very light exertion: a gentle walk
11Light exertion: a person has more than enough energy to continue exercising
13Slightly hard exertion: exercising is getting more difficult but is still manageable
15Hard exertion: continuing the activity is noticeably more difficult
17Very hard exertion: a person can maintain this level of physical activity if they push themselves — they are very tired.
20Maximal exertion: complete exhaustion

In addition to feeling physical tiredness, increased heart rate, and an increased breathing rate when exercising, a person may also feel pain. There is a modified RPE scale called the Borg Category Ratio Scale (CR10) that accounts for this.

The CR10 is similar to the original scale but also considers a person’s perceived level of pain.

This scale ranges from 0 to 10, with 0 being the lowest score and 10 the highest.

RatingHow the exertion feels
1Very easy
4Somewhat hard
7Very hard
10Maximum exertion

One small 2014 study suggested that the Borg CR10 Scale is a reliable indicator of both physical exertion and how hard the muscles are working, particularly the neck muscle.

The researchers also found that a score of 4 on the Borg CR10 Scale correlates with the onset of high muscle loading.

There is a significant correlation between RPE and heart rate.

The scale starts at 6, instead of 1, to make calculating the estimated heart rate based on RPE easier. A person can multiply the RPE number by 10 to determine their approximate heart rate.

For example, if an individual reports an RPE of 10 while exercising, their heart rate will likely be around 100 beats per minute.

However, this is not an exact science — a variety of factors can cause a person’s heart rate to increase or decrease. Certain medications, such as beta-blockers, can slow the heart rate. Age and fitness level are other factors that can affect it.

Individuals need to keep this in mind when using the scale to measure heart rate during exercise. If anyone feels their heart is beating too fast while exercising, they should slowly stop the activity and rest.

Learn more about heart rate.

The Borg RPE scale is a simple, easy-to-use tool that allows a person to gauge the intensity of their exercise quickly.

If an individual reports a high rating while feeling breathless and fatigued, they could be putting themselves at risk of injury. This indicates they should slow down and reduce the intensity.

It can also be a valuable tool for people as their fitness level changes. A person may notice that after a period of time, running or cycling at the same speed yields a lower RPE score.

Additionally, RPE is particularly valuable for individuals whose heart rate does not reflect the amount of exertion they feel. People taking beta-blockers or other medications that slow their heart rate may find the scale is a useful way to manage the intensity of their physical activity.

Exercise is an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people should aim to complete 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise — or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity — a week. Using RPE is a useful way to manage the intensity of their exercise.

However, if a person experiences fatigue, a loss of motivation, or prolonged soreness, they should take a few days off from their workout schedule to recover. They may also find it useful to reduce the intensity of their exercise for several days to let their muscles repair.

If their symptoms do not improve, and they frequently feel physically exhausted, a person should speak with a doctor.
People should also contact a healthcare professional if they have concerns about their heart rate.

Learn how to measure heart rate at home.

RPE is a subjective tool that allows people to determine the level of physical exertion they feel.

A person rates their level of exertion using the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale, which ranges from 6 to 20. The Borg CR10 Scale accounts for both physical exertion and pain.

Both scales are simple and valuable indicators of the intensity of an individual’s chosen physical activity. These tools can also help signal when a person needs to take a break or slow down.