The Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion

One way to gauge how hard you are exercising is to use the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion. The Borg Scale takes into account your fitness level: It matches how hard you feel you are working with numbers from 6 to 20; thus, it is a “relative” scale. The scale starts with “no feeling of exertion,” which rates a 6, and ends with “very, very hard,” which rates a 20. Moderate activities register 11 to 14 on the Borg scale (“fairly light” to “somewhat hard”), while vigorous activities usually rate a 15 or higher (“hard” to “very, very hard”). Dr. Gunnar Borg, who created the scale, set it to run from 6 to 20 as a simple way to estimate heart rate—multiplying the Borg score by 10 gives an approximate heart rate for a particular level of activity.

How you might describe your exertion Borg rating of your exertion Examples
(for most adults <65 years old)
None  6 Reading a book, watching television
Very, very light  7 to 8 Tying shoes
Very light   9 to 10 Chores like folding clothes that seem to take little effort
Fairly light  11 to 12 Walking through the grocery store or other activities that require some effort but not enough to speed up your breathing
Somewhat hard  13 to 14 Brisk walking or other activities that require moderate effort and speed your heart rate and breathing but don’t make you out of breath
Hard  15 to 16  Bicycling, swimming, or other activities that take vigorous effort and get the heart pounding and make breathing very fast
Very hard  17 to 18  The highest level of activity you can sustain
Very, very hard  19 to 20  A finishing kick in a race or other burst of activity that you can’t maintain for long


Source: Borg G.A. Psychophysical bases of perceived exertion. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 1982; 14:377-381.

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