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Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale
Copyrighted Gunnar Borg, 1970, 1985, 1994, 1998
Information about this instrument can be found at Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale Instrument Link
NeuroRehab Supplemental - Highly Recommended
Recommendations for Use: Indicated for studies requiring a measure of physical activity intensity level.
Supplemental - Highly Recommended: Exercise Studies in Mitochondrial Disease (Mito)
Exploratory: Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) and SCI-Pediatric (age 10 and over)
Short Description of Instrument
Construct measured: Perceived exertion
Generic vs. disease specific: Generic
Intended respondent: Participant
Comments/Special Instructions
Background: The Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is used to measure physical activity intensity level. Perceived exertion is based on the sensations a person experiences during physical activity, including increased heart rate, increased respiration or breathing rate, increased sweating, and muscle fatigue.
NeuroRehab Specific: Most exercise interventions will ask a participant to perform a specific task and the investigator may wish to assess the exertion required for the task. Given that this usually cannot be done directly without substantial investment in equipment, it is common for the investigator to rely on a self-assessment of the perceived exertion of the participant. There are also instances when an assessment of perceived exertion is desired in place of objectively measured assessments of exertion.
Participants are asked to rate their perception of exertion during physical activity. The severity is measured on either the original scale of 6-20 ("6" meaning "no exertion at all" and "20" meaning "maximal exertion"), or the modified scale of 0-10.
Original 6-20 Scale:
Rating: Perceived Exertion
6: No Exertion at all
7: Extremely light
9: Very light
11: Light
13: Somewhat hard
15: Hard (heavy)
17: Very hard
19: Extremely hard
20: Maximal exertion
Modified 0-10 Scale:
Rating: Perceived Exertion
0: Nothing at all
0.5: Very, very weak (just noticeable)
1: Very weak
2: Weak (light)
3: Moderate
4: Somewhat strong
5: Strong (heavy)
7: Very Strong
10: Maximal
SCI-specific rationale: Does not measure a specific function, it only assesses the perceived exertion during performance of specific functions. Its utility in the SCI population is limited. Ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) are influenced by multiple peripheral and central cues; SCI alters the physiology of many of these cues resulting in an altered response to exercise/exertion.
Very little psychometric testing of the Borg RPE for SCI or mitochondrial disease has been published. Two studies demonstrate that the Borg does not accurately index low-moderate exercise intensity in SCI (Cowan et al., 2012; Jacobs et al., 1997). Three studies demonstrate that the Borg does not correlate well with heart rate in people with SCI (Koopmman et al., 2013; Lewis etal., 2007; Jacobs et al., 1997). One study proposes that the Borg is a valid predictor of endurance capacity, but that is based on data from 3 people with SCI (Capodaglio and Bazzini, 1996).
Acute - limited utility from 0-1 months, possibly out to 2 months depending on the injury level and severity. Subacute and Chronic - suitable for use.
SCI-Pediatric-specific: Reliability of measures using pictures is better established in children. Cognitive testing for Borg is not available and should be limited to children >10 y with consideration for their understanding.
Mitochondrial-specific strengths: Borg can be used to measure fatigability, which can be useful, since people with mitochondrial disease tend to complain about fatigue. Being able to measure perceived exertion and correlating it with fatigue and actual work performed may open new areas for therapy.
NeuroRehab Specific: Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion is the gold standard measure of perceived exertion with a rich history and well-defined psychometric properties.
Borg GA. Psychophysical bases of perceived exertion. Med Sci Sports Exerc.1982;14(5):377-381.
Capodaglio P, Bazzini G. Predicting endurance limits in arm cranking exercise with a subjectively based method. Ergonomics. 1996;39(7):924-932.
Cowan RE, Ginnity KL, Kressler J, Nash MS, Nash MS. Assessment of the talk test and rating of perceived exertion for exercise intensity prescription in persons with paraplegia. Top Spinal Cord Inj Rehabil. 2012 Summer;18(3):212-219.
Jacobs PL, Klose KJ, Guest R, Needham-Shropshire B, Broton JG, Green BA. Relationships of oxygen uptake, heart rate, and ratings of perceived exertion in persons with paraplegia during functional neuromuscular stimulation assisted ambulation. Spinal Cord. 1997;35(5):292-298.
Koopman AD, Eken MM, van Bezeij T, Valent LJ, Houdijk H. Does clinical rehabilitation impose sufficient cardiorespiratory strain to improve aerobic fitness? J Rehabil Med. 2013;45(1):92-98.
Lewis JE, Nash MS, Hamm LF, Martins SC, Groah SL. The relationship between perceived exertion and physiologic indicators of stress during graded arm exercise in persons with spinal cord injuries. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2007;88(9):1205-1211.
Santanasto AJ, Glynn NW, Jubrias SA, Conley KE, Boudreau RM, Amati F, Mackey DC, Simonsick EM, Strotmeyer ES, Coen PM, Goodpaster BH, Newman AB. Skeletal Muscle Mitochondrial Function and Fatigability in Older Adults. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2015;70(11):1379-1385.
Scherr J, Wolfarth B, Christle JW, Pressler A, Wagenpfeil S, Halle M. Associations between Borg's rating of perceived exertion and physiological measures of exercise intensity. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013;113(1):147-155.
Au JS, Totosy DE Zepetnek JO, Macdonald MJ. Modeling Perceived Exertion during Graded Arm Cycling Exercise in Spinal Cord Injury. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017;49(6):1190-1196.
Hommerding PX, Donadio MV, Paim TF, Marostica PJ. The Borg scale is accurate in children and adolescents older than 9 years with cystic fibrosis. Respir Care. 2010;55(6):729-733.
Lewis JE, Nash MS, Hamm LF, Martins SC, Groah SL. The relationship between perceived exertion and physiologic indicators of stress during graded arm exercise in persons with spinal cord injuries. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2007;88(9):1205-1211.
Yelling MR, Lamb KL, Swaine IL. Validity of a pictorial perceived exertion scale for effort estimation and effort production during stepping exercise in adolescent children. Eur Phys Educ Rev. 2002;78(2):157-175.
Document last updated January 2022