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How to Calculate RPE

Wondering how to calculate RPE? We’ve got you covered. Read now to learn more today!

Published: 11/4/21

How to Calculate RPE

When it comes to fitness, every journey is different. So, it’s hard to calculate exactly what success means because it can vary from person to person.

Regardless of your exercise preferences, knowing where to start and how to measure progress can be challenging. Maybe you’re in it for strength, or perhaps endurance is your thing, but regardless, your journey is yours alone. When it comes to goal setting, you can use this to your advantage! 

Understanding RPE, or Rate of Perceived Exertion, can help you set exercise goals and measure progress. To learn more about what RPE is, check out our blog all about RPE.

RPE is a way for people to gauge their level of exertion. It was developed in the mid-19th century by Gunnar Borg, a psychologist who studied the connection between mind and body. Borg developed a scale of RPE so patients could more accurately track how they feel when performing certain tasks. 

When it comes to fitness, we can use RPE to establish how hard we’re working so we can move toward our goals with real numbers in mind. Basically, RPE allows us to have a tangible measurement to track our workouts and exercise intensity. 

How is it Calculated?

There are two scales of RPE: one that ranges from 6-20 and another that ranges from 0-10. 

The 6-20 scale was the first scale Borg produced and it’s based on your actual heart rate, not maximum heart rate. The 0-10 scale is a newer and more simpler version that is a bit more abstract and open to personal interpretation. 

The way to calculate with the 6-20 RPE scale is by simply multiplying your heart rate by 10. If you’re at rest (exerting the least amount of energy as possible), it’s probably around 60 beats per minute (though athletes tend to have lower resting heart rates). 60 divided by 10 is 6, which puts you at the bottom of the exertion scale. On the opposite end of the scale is a 20, which translates to 200 bpm. A level 20 on the RPE scale is only normally attainable by high-level athletes. 

The 1-10 scale isn’t based on target heart rate and is therefore more subjective; you have to be very in tune with your body in order to use the scale. When using this scale, you must check in with your personal interpretation of how you’re feeling and trust that perception—sometime’s it is a little less scientifically accurate, but is holistically beneficial and allows you to check in with yourself. 

How Can We Use RPE For Our Own Fitness? 

Naturally, when we discover a new fitness tool, we want to understand how we can utilize it to maximize our own fitness routines. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Mayo Clinic, the American Heart Association, Harvard Medical School, and most other authorities on health in the United States agree that 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week (or 30 minutes per day) is adequate to establish and maintain good health in adults. 

The keyword is “moderate,” which is a relatively subjective measurement. 

What does moderate mean for your ability? In order to follow the above guidelines, we need to understand how our bodies feel when they are doing moderate training intensity. This is where RPE comes in: it provides us with a standard system of measurement from which to establish what “moderate” means to each and every one of us. To establish what it means to you, consider using your heart rate to establish what that feels like and what you have to do to get your heart rate to 130-140 bpm. 

The beauty of moderate exercise is that it’s a broad term. It doesn’t describe what you need to do, it just describes how intensely you need to be doing it. So if you prefer stand-up paddleboarding, intramural soccer, or lifting weights, you can adjust your work to your lifestyle. 

Remember, your fitness goals will look and feel uniquely yours! Here at Chuze, we’re always working to support everybody’s goals and fitness abilities. RPE is a great way to check in with yourself and feel grounded in your own progress. While there are plenty of other tools for measuring fitness, such as a heart rate monitor, your blood oxygen count, and more, we recommend using RPE value to help you see how you overcome, grow, and develop as an athlete over time. 

For example, it feels so great when running a mile at a high RPE three months ago feels a lot easier today. However, without tracking perceived effort, you’d probably forget that a mile used to be a lot more challenging for you.  

If lifting weights, cruising on an elliptical, or taking a group class is up your alley, visit any of our 30+ Chuze Fitness locations today! We’ve got all of the tools to get your heart pumping in whatever way makes you feel good, strong, and connected to your body.