You can judge your own exercise intensity fairly well—and easily—using the Borg scale, named after Gunnar Borg, the Swedish scientist who developed it. The Borg scale measures your rate of perceived exertion (called RPE). "It can be quite accurate," says Christopher C. Dunbar, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of the Laboratory of Applied Physiology at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, who has researched the method's effectiveness.
With this simple-to-use scale, you rate how your exercise effort feels to you. Of course, if you are planning to become much more physically active than you've been, you should check with your doctor first.
- The numbers on the left in the chart below don't indicate how many times or for how many minutes you should do an exercise or physical activity. They are for you to use to describe how hard you think you are working, with the highlighted zone 11 to 13 being where healthy beginning exercisers should work to build endurance. Remember, you should gradually work your way from one level to the next higher one.
The Borg Rating Scale
|very, very light
- Your judgment of "somewhat hard" exercising may be different than another person's. The Borg scale ranks your perceptions about your own body, which is why it applies to people at all fitness levels.
- You may rate your feelings during one type of exercise as a RPE of "9" and, in another activity, rate yourself at "11." When your endurance builds, your "11" pace will become easier, dropping perhaps to a "9." Then it's time to walk faster or challenge yourself with a more hilly route to regain that "11."
- Individuals who are very fit might want to work at an RPE rate as high as 16.
- For the most accurate exercise intensity recommendation, you can have special testing done by a doctor or at a fitness center.