The validity of regulating exercise intensity by ratings of perceived exertion

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1992 Jan;24(1):94-9.


The purpose of this investigation was to examine the regulation of exercise intensity by using Ratings of Perceived Exertion (RPE). The RPE equivalent to 50% and 70% VO2max was estimated by using standard clinical protocols on a treadmill and cycle ergometer. Subjects then produced the target RPEs on these modalities. Physiological validity of perceptually regulated exercise intensity was determined by comparing VO2 and heart rate between estimation and production trials at the same relative intensity. With one exception, RPE was found to be a valid means of regulating exercise intensity both intra- and intermodally at 50% and 70% VO2max. Perceptual regulation of intramodal treadmill exercise was not valid at 70% VO2max in that both VO2 and heart rate were significantly lower during production than estimation. The present results also indicate that target RPE estimated during a cycle ergometer graded exercise test is more accurate for regulating exercise intensity than when the target RPE is estimated during a treadmill test. The lower accuracy found for treadmill production at the higher exercise intensity may have been caused by the use of a test protocol during the estimation trial that included relatively slow speeds and large inclines. In general, RPE provide a physiologically valid method of regulating exercise intensity.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Physical Education and Training
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*
  • Psychophysics