The Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale Explained


Understanding the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale

When it comes to exercise, we often hear about intensity levels and how important it is to gauge our effort. One tool that can help us with this is the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale. The RPE scale is a simple and effective way to measure how hard we feel we are working during physical activity. In this article, we will explore what the RPE scale is, how it works, and why it is beneficial for tracking our exercise intensity.

What is the RPE Scale?

The RPE scale is a subjective rating system that allows individuals to rate their perception of effort during exercise. It was developed by Swedish psychologist Gunnar Borg in the 1970s and has since become a widely used tool in the fitness industry. The scale ranges from 6 to 20, with each number corresponding to a specific level of exertion.

At the lower end of the scale (6-10), individuals perceive their effort as light to moderate, indicating that they can sustain the activity for a long duration without feeling overly fatigued. As the numbers increase (11-14), the perceived effort becomes more challenging, indicating a moderate to hard level of exertion. Finally, at the higher end of the scale (15-20), individuals perceive their effort as very hard to maximal, suggesting that they can only sustain the activity for a short duration before exhaustion sets in.

How Does the RPE Scale Work?

Using the RPE scale is quite simple. During exercise, individuals are asked to rate their perceived exertion on the scale. They consider factors such as their breathing rate, heart rate, muscle fatigue, and overall level of discomfort. The goal is to choose the number that best represents how hard they feel they are working.

It’s important to note that the RPE scale is subjective and can vary from person to person. What feels like a 12 on the scale for one individual may feel like a 14 for another. However, with practice and self-awareness, individuals can become more accurate in their ratings over time.

The Benefits of Using the RPE Scale

There are several benefits to using the RPE scale when tracking exercise intensity:

  1. Individualized Assessment: The RPE scale allows individuals to assess their effort levels based on their own perception. It takes into account factors such as fitness level, fatigue, and overall well-being, providing a more personalized approach to measuring intensity.
  2. Flexibility: Unlike heart rate monitors or other objective measures, the RPE scale can be used in any type of physical activity, making it a versatile tool for tracking intensity levels.
  3. Self-Awareness: By regularly using the RPE scale, individuals can become more in tune with their body and its responses to exercise. This increased self-awareness can help them make better decisions about when to push harder or ease up.
  4. Goal Setting: The RPE scale can be used to set and monitor intensity goals. For example, if an individual wants to increase their fitness level, they can aim to consistently reach a higher RPE number during their workouts.


The Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale is a valuable tool for gauging exercise intensity. By allowing individuals to subjectively rate their effort levels, it provides a personalized and flexible approach to measuring intensity. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced athlete, incorporating the RPE scale into your fitness routine can help you optimize your workouts and achieve your goals.

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