Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale

One way to see how much progress you’re making in your physical activity is to measure the amount of effort it takes to do an activity. Over time, the amount of effort it takes should decrease. Once you’ve reached this point, you can gradually move on to more challenging activities.

The Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale will help you estimate how hard you’re working (your activity intensity). Perceived exertion is how hard you think your body is exercising. Ratings on this scale are related to heart rate (how hard your heart is working to move blood through your body).

How to Use the Scale

  • While you’re doing an activity, think about your overall feelings of physical stress, effort and fatigue. Don’t concern yourself with any single thing, like leg pain or shortness of breath. Try to concentrate on your total, inner feeling of exertion.
  • Find the best description of your level of effort from the examples on the right side of the table.
  • Find the number rating that matches that description. Add a zero to the end of the number rating to get an estimate of your heart rate during activity (also known as training or target heart rate).
  • Typically, RPE ratings for activity in the target heart rate zone will be between 12 and 16. The shaded areas are the moderate activity zones.
  • If your RPE for an activity decreases over time, you’ve improved your fitness level. Congratulations!

Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale

Number Rating Verbal Rating Example
6   No effort at all. Sitting and doing nothing.
7 Very, very light Your effort is just noticeable.
8    
9 Very light Walking slowly at your own pace.
10   Light effort.
11 Fairly light Still feels like you have enough energy to continue exercising.
12    
13 Somewhat hard  
14   Strong effort needed.
15 Hard  
16   Very strong effort needed.
17 Very hard You can still go on but you really have to push yourself. It feels very heavy and you’re very tired.
18    
19 Very, very hard For most people, this is the most strenuous exercise they have ever done. Almost maximal effort.
20   Absolute maximal effort (highest possible). Exhaustion.

Last Reviewed: November, 2016


© 2016 Province of British Columbia. All rights reserved. May be reproduced in its entirety provided the source is acknowledged. This information is not meant to replace advice from your medical doctor or individual counselling with a health professional. It is intended for educational and informational purposes only.

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