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The terms “RPE” (Rating of Perceived Exertion) and “Borg” are often used interchangeably because they refer to the same concept. RPE is a general term that stands for “Rating of Perceived Exertion,” while “Borg” specifically refers to Gunnar Borg, the Swedish psychologist who developed and popularized the RPE scale. In essence, the Borg RPE scale and RPE are the same thing.

What is the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion?

The Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale is a subjective measure used to assess an individual’s perception of the intensity of physical activity or exercise. It was developed by Swedish psychologist Gunnar Borg in the 1960s as a way to gauge how hard someone feels they are working during exercise.

This scale is widely used in exercise physiology, sports science, and clinical settings. It’s a simple and valuable tool for individuals to self-assess their effort during physical activity.

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How Do You Use The RPE Scale?

Participants are asked to choose a number from the scale that best represents how they feel during exercise. The number they select reflects their perception of the effort they are putting into the activity.

For example, if someone is walking at a leisurely pace and feels that it requires very little effort, they might rate it as a 9 or 10 on the Borg RPE scale. If they are engaged in intense physical activity and feel like they are pushing themselves to their maximum, they might rate it as a 19 or 20.

  • ‘6’ is at rest with no exertion at all
  • ‘9’ corresponds to ‘very light’ exercise. For a healthy person, is equivalent to walking slowly at his or her own pace for several minutes.
  • ‘13’ feels ‘somewhat hard’ but the individual still feels able to continue.
  • ‘17’ is ‘very hard’. A healthy person can continue but must push themselves beyond their feeling of being very fatigued.
  • ‘19’ is extremely strenuous exercise—for most people, the hardest they have ever experienced.

There is also a 10-point scale with corresponding descriptions as well that some will use instead of the 6-20 scale.

Here’s a breakdown of the scale:

When Would You Use the Scale?

The Borg RPE scale is versatile and can be used in various exercise settings, from aerobic activities like running and cycling to strength training and rehabilitation exercises. It’s particularly helpful for individuals who may not have access to heart rate monitors. You can read more about how to calculate HR Max.

The Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion is also the preferred method to assess intensity among those individuals who take medications that affect heart rate or pulse.

By using the Borg RPE scale, individuals can better understand and communicate how they perceive the intensity of their workouts, which can be valuable for optimizing training programs, monitoring progress, and ensuring that exercise remains safe and enjoyable.

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Choosing Workout Intensity Based on the RPE Scale

Determine your fitness goals, whether it’s to improve cardiovascular fitness, build strength, lose weight, or enhance endurance. Your goals will influence the type and intensity of workouts you choose.

Depending on your goals, select an RPE range that aligns with your objectives. For example:

  • Light to moderate-intensity workouts might fall in the RPE range of 11-13
  • High-intensity workouts might fall in the RPE range of 15-17 or higher

As always, it is best to work with a healthcare professional who can take into account your personal medical history, exercise history, and overall health and well-being to develop a safe exercise program for you individually.