Rated Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale

Rate of perceived exertion (RPE) is used to measure how hard your body works during physical activity. It runs from 0 – 10, using numbers to rate how much effort an activity takes. The RPE scale can help you manage exercise intensity and improve cardio training and endurance. Some healthcare providers use RPE to evaluate heart and lung health.

What is rate of perceived exertion (RPE)?

Your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) refers to how hard you think you’re pushing yourself during exercise. It’s subjective, which means that you decide how hard you feel you’re working during physical activity.

The RPE scale was developed by Swedish researcher Gunnar Borg in the 1960s. It’s sometimes called the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion.

What factors determine your RPE?

The RPE scale includes the following:

  • How fast you’re breathing.
  • How fast your heart is beating.
  • How tired your muscles are.
  • How much you’re sweating.

Who needs to know their RPE?

There are several reasons to use RPE to track how hard your body is working during physical activity. People with certain cardiovascular (heart) diseases, like high blood pressure, who take medications that slow their heart rate may use RPE to prevent overexertion.

You may also want to know your RPE if you’re:

  • Taking up a new activity, like biking or running.
  • Training for an event like a marathon or sports like football.
  • Trying to increase the intensity of your workout to improve stamina or burn more calories.
  • Taking it easy after recovering from an injury or medical treatment.
  • Keeping your heart rate within a certain range recommended by your healthcare provider.

What are the types of RPE scales?

There are two different RPE scales that you can use to measure the intensity of your workout: the Borg RPE scale and a modified Borg category-ratio (CR) 10 RPE scale. Both scales assign a number to what you feel when exercising.

Borg RPE scale

The Borg RPE scale rates exertion from a scale of 6 (no exertion) to 20 (maximum effort). A rating between 12 to 14 typically reflects a moderate or somewhat hard level of intensity.

Level of Exertion
No exertion
Level of Exertion
Level of Exertion
Extremely light
Level of Exertion
Level of Exertion
Very light
Level of Exertion
Level of Exertion
Level of Exertion
Level of Exertion
Somewhat hard
Level of Exertion
Level of Exertion
Hard (heavy)
Level of Exertion
Level of Exertion
Very hard
Level of Exertion
Level of Exertion
Extremely hard
Level of Exertion
Maximum exertion
Modified Borg CR10 RPE scale

The modified Borg CR10 RPE scale measures exertion on a scale of 0 (no exertion or resting) to 10 (pushing yourself to the max). You use your breathing rate or breathlessness to determine your RPE during exercise.

Perceived Exertion Level
No exertion (at rest)
Perceived Exertion Level
Very light
2 to 3
Perceived Exertion Level
4 to 5
Perceived Exertion Level
Moderate (somewhat hard)
6 to 7
Perceived Exertion Level
High (vigorous)
8 to 9
Perceived Exertion Level
Very hard
Perceived Exertion Level
Maximum effort (highest possible)
Which RPE scale is best for me?

The RPE scales are one way to measure exercise intensity. If you want to check your heart rate during cardiovascular exercise, the Borg RPE scale is best. If you want to measure exercise intensity while you’re bodybuilding or training to build muscle, the modified Borg CR10 RPE scale is best.

How do you use RPE scales?

Monitoring your RPE, or how your body feels during exercise, can help you know when to increase or decrease the intensity based on your goals. For instance, if your goal is to engage in a moderately intense activity, you should:

  • Increase your activity if your breathing rate, muscle fatigue or other sensations seem very light.
  • Decrease your intensity if you’re breathing heavily, sweating a lot, have a racing heart or muscle exhaustion.
  • Maintain your intensity if you feel you’re exercising at the desired pace.

How do healthcare providers use RPE scales?

Healthcare providers use the RPE scale to evaluate your heart and lung health, as well as your overall fitness. For instance, your provider may ask you to rate your perceived exertion during an exercise stress test. This test on a treadmill or exercise bike helps providers diagnose certain heart conditions.

Providers who use RPE scales include:


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Is an RPE scale an accurate assessment of your exercise intensity?

Because RPE is self-reported, it’s possible that you might not assess yourself correctly. Someone new to exercise may believe they’re working out harder than their heart or breathing rate shows. Similarly, extremely fit athletes may think they’re going at a moderate pace when they’re actually at their maximum RPE.

How accurate are RPE scales?

RPE scales provide good estimates of physical effort and exertion. Your actual heart rate may vary depending on your age, overall fitness level and medications. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have concerns about your heart rate or stamina.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Your rate of perceived exertion or RPE can be a helpful tool for tracking your level of exercise intensity without the need for technology like a fitness watch. You can use RPE to ramp up, maintain or slow down your fitness routine. Your healthcare provider may ask you to use the RPE scale if you’re experiencing heart or breathing problems. Both the Borg RPE scale and a modified Borg CR10 RPE scale provide fairly accurate self-reported assessments of how hard your body is working. Choose the scale that works best for your needs.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 11/01/2023.

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