Is Rating of Perceived Exertion a Valuable Tool for Monitoring Exercise Intensity During Steady-State Conditions in Elite Endurance Athletes?

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: Rating of perceived exertion (RPE) is a widely used tool to assess subjective perception of effort during exercise. The authors investigated between-subject variation and effect of exercise mode and sex on Borg RPE (6–20) in relation to heart rate (HR), oxygen uptake (VO2), and capillary blood lactate concentrations. Methods: A total of 160 elite endurance athletes performed a submaximal and maximal test protocol either during cycling (n = 84, 37 women) or running (n = 76, 32 women). The submaximal test consisted of 4 to 7 progressive 5-minute steps within ∼50% to 85% of maximal VO2. For each step, steady-state HR, VO2, and capillary blood lactate concentrations were assessed and RPE reported. An incremental protocol to exhaustion was used to determine maximal VO2 and peak HR to provide relative (%) HR and VO2 values at submaximal work rates. Results: A strong relationship was found between RPE and %HR, %VO2, and capillary blood lactate concentrations (r = .80–.82, all Ps < .05). The between-subject coefficient of variation (SD/mean) for %HR and %VO2 decreased linearly with increased RPE, from ∼10% to 15% at RPE 8 to ∼5% at RPE 17. Compared with cycling, running induced a systematically higher %HR and %VO2 (∼2% and 5%, respectively, P < .05) with these differences being greater at lower intensities (RPE < 13). At the same RPE, women showed a trivial, but significantly higher %HR and %VO2 than men (<1%, P < .05). Conclusions: Among elite endurance athletes, exercise mode influenced RPE at a given %HR and %VO2, with greater differences at lower exercise intensities. Athletes should manage different tools to evaluate training based on intensity and duration of workouts.

Losnegard and Paulsen are with the Dept of Physical Performance, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway. Losnegard, Skarli, Roterud, Svendsen, and Paulsen are with the Norwegian Olympic Federation, Oslo, Norway. Hansen and Rønnestad are with the Section of Health and Exercise Physiology, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Lillehammer, Norway.

Losnegard (thomas.losnegard@nih.no) is corresponding author.
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