Int J Sports Med 2004; 25(5): 362-367
DOI: 10.1055/s-2004-815840
Training & Testing

© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

The Reproducibility of Perceptually Regulated Exercise Responses During Short-Term Cycle Ergometry

J. E. O. Hartshorn1 , K. L. Lamb2
  • 1Centre for Exercise and Nutrition Science, University College Chester, Chester, United Kingdom
  • 2Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University College Chester, Chester, United Kingdom
Further Information

Publication History

Accepted after revision: September 20, 2003

Publication Date:
18 May 2004 (online)


The purpose of this study was to assess the reproducibility over four trials of perceptually regulated exercise intensity during short-term cycle ergometry. Recent research has suggested that an improvement in the reproducibility (better agreement) of the exercise output would be observed with a repeated practice using regulatory tools such as Borg's 6 - 20 rating of perceived exertion (RPE) scale. Eighteen healthy active volunteers (nine males, mean age (± SD) 24.7 ± 3.4 yr, and nine females 27.6 ± 5.4 yr) completed four identical intermittent effort production trials on a cycle ergometer over a period of two - three weeks, with all trials being between three and five days apart. After warm-up, the volunteers were asked to produce four × three-minute bouts of exercise at RPE levels: 13, 15, 9, and 17 (in this order). Power output (W), percentage maximum heart rate reserve (%MHRR), and oxygen consumption (VO2; ml · kg-1 · min-1) were recorded in the final minute of each bout. Analysis revealed that the 95 % limits of agreement (LoA) between repeated trials did not decrease for the objective markers of exercise intensity, remaining wide throughout. In the worst case comparisons the LoA represented changes (expressed as a proportion of the mean of two trials) of up to 58.3 % in power output (T2 vs. T3 at RPE 9), 65.5 % in % MHRR (T1 vs. T2 at RPE 13) and 36.5 % in VO2 (T3 vs. T4 at RPE 17). These findings question the use of ratings of perceived exertion to regulate exercise effort. That the reproducibility of effort is also not seen to improve with practice raises doubts about the validity of using the RPE scale to provide training intensities for this type of exercise.


  • 1 American College of Sports Medicine .Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. 6th ed. Baltimore; Lippincott Williams and Wilkins 2000
  • 2 Atkinson G. A comparison of statistical methods for assessing measurement repeatability in ergonomics research. Atkinson G, Reilly T Sport, Leisure and Ergonomics. London; E & FN Spo 1995: 218-222
  • 3 Atkinson G, Nevill A M. Statistical methods for addressing measurement error (reliability) in variables relevant to sports medicine.  Sports Med. 1998;  26 217-238
  • 4 Bland J M, Altman D G. Statistical methods for assessing agreement between two methods of clinical measurement.  Lancet. 1986;  I 307-310
  • 5 Bland J M, Altman D G. A note on the use of the intraclass correlation coefficient in the evaluation of agreement between two methods of measurement.  Comput Biol Med. 1990;  20 337-340
  • 6 Borg G AV. An Introduction to Borg's RPE Scale. New York; Movement Publications 1985
  • 7 Borg G. Borg's RPE Scale: A Method for Measuring Perceived Exertion. Stockholm; Borg Perception 1994
  • 8 Borg G. Borg's Perceived Exertion and Pain Scales. Champaign, IL; Human Kinetics 1998
  • 9 British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences .Physiological Testing Guidelines. 3rd ed. Leeds; British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences 1997
  • 10 Buckley J P, Eston R G, Sim J. Ratings of perceived exertion in braille: validity and reliability in production mode.  Br J Sports Med. 2000;  38 297-302
  • 11 Cohn J N. Clinical implications of the haemodynamic effects of beta-blockade.  Am J Cardiol. 1985;  5 125-128
  • 12 Dunbar C C, Glickman-Weiss E L, Bursztyn D A, Kurtich M, Quiroz A, Conley P. A submaximal treadmill test for developing target ratings of perceived exertion for outpatient cardiac rehabilitation.  Percept Mot Skills. 1998;  87 755-759
  • 13 Eston R G, Connolly D. The use of perceived exertion for exercise prescription in patients receiving β-blocker therapy.  Sports Med. 1996;  21 176-190
  • 14 Eston R G, Lamb K L. Effort perception. Armstrong N, Van Mechelen W Pediatric Exercise Science and Medicine. Oxford; Oxford University Press 2000: 85-91
  • 15 Eston R G, Parfitt G, Campbell L, Lamb K L. Reliability of effort perception for regulating exercise intensity in children using the Cart and Load Effort Rating (CALER) Scale.  Ped Exerc Sci. 2000;  12 388-397
  • 16 Gutman M C, Squires R W, Pollock M L. Perceived exertion-heart rate relationship during exercise testing and training in cardiac patients.  J Cardiac Rehabil. 1981;  1 52-59
  • 17 Lamb K L. Test-retest reliability in quantitative physical education research: a commentary.  Eur Phys Ed Rev. 1998;  4 145-152
  • 18 Lamb K, Eston R G, Corns D. The reliability of ratings of perceived exertion during progressive treadmill exercise.  Br J Sports Med. 1999;  33 336-339
  • 19 Nevill A M, Atkinson G. Assessing agreement between measurements recorded on a ratio scale in sports medicine and sports science.  Br J Sports Med. 1997;  31 314-318
  • 20 Noble B J. Clinical applications of perceived exertion.  Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1982;  14 406-411
  • 21 Noble B J, Robertson R J. Perceived Exertion. Champaign; Human Kinetics 1996: 280-285
  • 22 Pollock M L, Wilmore J H, Fox S M. Exercise in Health and Disease: Evaluation and Prescription for Prevention and Rehabilitation. Philadelphia; Saunders 1984
  • 23 Pollock M L, Jackson A S, Foster C. The use of the perception scale for exercise prescription. Borg G, Ottoson D Perception of Exertion in Physical Work. London; Macmillan 1986: 161-178
  • 24 Rankin G, Stokes M. Reliability of assessment tools in rehabilitation: an illustration of appropriate statistical analyses.  Clin Rehabil. 1998;  12 187-199
  • 25 Reilly T, Atkinson G, Waterhouse J. Biological Rhythms and Exercise. Oxford; Oxford University Press 1997: 51-53
  • 26 Robertson R J. Exercise testing and prescription using RPE as a criterion variable.  Int J Sport Psychol. 2001;  32 177-188
  • 27 Thompson J, Lamb K L. The effect of perceptual anchoring on the reliability of exercise regulation in young children.  J Sports Sci. 2001;  19 27-28
  • 28 Vincent J. Statistics in Kinesiology. Champaign, IL; Human Kinetics Books 1994: 180
  • 29 Williams J G, Eston R G, Furlong B. CERT: a perceived exertion scale for young children.  Percept Mot Skills. 1994;  79 1451-1458

Dr. K. L. Lamb

Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences · University College Chester

Parkgate Road

Chester CH1 4BJ

United Kingdom

Phone: + 01244375444

Fax: + 0 12 44 39 28 89