Lets Get

Monitoring Exercise Intensity Using Perceived Exertion


Whatever reason we have to exercise. Whether it’s to stay healthy, lose weight or to improve fitness it’s important to know how hard you have to exercise to achieve your goals.

How often have you exercised and felt uncomfortable, or seemed to have worked too hard? To reap the rewards of cardiovascular workouts, it is necessary to exercise within  a recommended intensity range that suits your fitness level, ability and goals

One way to monitor your exercise intensity is the rate perceived exertion (RPE). The RPE scale, is used to assess your exercise intensity and ensure a level of exertion that is comfortable whether you are walking, running, climbing stairs or taking part in your favourite Zumba class.

So, why use the RPE to monitor exercise intensity?

How hard you exercise is all about you and how hard you are working, no one else, generally if you feel that you are working hard, then you probably are. If you only use a heart rate monitor, you could be mislead if, you either, have low battery power, a bad chest strap connection, or fall between some of the general calculations that devices have to make to cover the vast differences in the population such as height weight, gender, starting fitness level and age. Most devices have to make some assumptions and therefore provide you with guidelines. The RPE chart is another guideline so the more you consider, the more effective and safer your workout will be. As a general rule try to exercise around between 3 and 6 on the chart below, or to a level where you could still just about have a comfortable conversation.

So, how do I use RPE? Perceived exertion is assessed by the use of a chart scale of 0-10 to rate  how you feel caused by your workout exertion. For example, simply sitting down in a chair, watching TV or reading a book would have the rating of 0. Walking at pace you feel is comfortable would be given a rating of 3. If we take walking as an example; the rating of the exertion you are performing is completely independent of the pace you think you are walking. It is independent only on the feelings caused by the exertion. If you increase the pace and run uphill you could increase the RPE to 10 on the scale. The recommended RPE range for the majority of people is normally between 3 and 5.

Regardless of fitness levels or competence, anyone can use perceived exertion to effectively gauge their exercise intensity in their workouts. Whether you a sportsman or new to aerobic exercise you can use the RPE scale to familiarise yourself with the perception and description of exercise effort. Your workouts will be more effective and most importantly, enjoyable!