Monitoring Exercise Intensity

Avatar for Hadyn Luke Hadyn Luke posted this on Tuesday 14th of November 2023 Hadyn Luke 14/11/2023


Monitoring Exercise Intensity

When instructing, you have to be able to set the appropriate exercise intensity, this will be based on several factors such as fitness level, skill level, and exercise aims. You will also have to monitor and control the set intensity throughout the session ensuring that it is safe, effective and meets the exercise aims.

The following methods of monitoring intensity will help you in this process:

Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

One way of monitoring intensity is to use a scale “rating of perceived exertion” (RPE). The “Borg” RPE scale runs from 6 – 20, and is designed to reflect heart rates ranging from 60 – 200bpm. For example if a person exercising feels that the exercise is fairly light and gives it a rating of 11, multiplying this by 10 will given an equivalent heart rate of 110bpm. These equivalents are based upon a maximum heart rate of 200bpm, which will not always be the case.

Rating Of Perceived Exertion Borg Scale 6 – 20

The “Borg” RPE scale has been shown to be a simple valid estimate of exercise intensity, however it does take time and practice for you and your client to become proficient in its use, therefore in the early stages of an exercise programme you should also employ other methods of monitoring intensity such as a simple talk test, and visual assessment.

Another way is to use a more simple scale of 1-10, which may be more useful for a new client. For example, one = being at rest, ten = working as hard as you can, with two – nine being intensities in between.

Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale 1 – 10


  • Use of a variety of scales (Borg 1 – 10, 6 – 20, How it feels 1 – 10) easy to use.
  • Scientifically Valid.


  • Individual interpretation of scales may vary.
  • RE: 6-20: not all clients have a MaxHR of 220.

Verbal Assessment (talk test)

The talk test is an objective estimate of exercise intensity, and although it might seem simple it is valid and is very useful for establishing a “comfort zone” of moderate intensity. The client should be able to hold a conversation whilst exercising, be breathing rhythmically and comfortably during exercise.


  • Easy to use.
  • Ability for the instructor to interpret how hard an individual is working by conversation, breathlessness.


  • Not scientifically accurate.
  • On its own can lead to an inaccurate reading of intensity.

Visual Assessment

Looking for signs of over exertion, whilst it might not seem very scientific, allows for a valid estimate of exercise intensity. It is the instructor’s objective assessment. Look for changes in exercise technique, pallor, breathing patterns and excessive sweating.

Factors Affecting Aerobic Training

There are certain things about individuals, which will affect their ability when training aerobically.

Therefore when designing your aerobic workout you should consider the following;

  • Gender: Physiological differences between men and women.
  • Body type/Genetics: Affects an individual’s ability to perform tasks.
  • Current fitness level: Sedentary or active.
  • Lifestyle: Occupation, diet, smoking etc.
  • Speed of the activity: Too fast = technique and effectiveness will be sacrificed.
  • Age: Natural physiological changes associated with the ageing process.
  • Skill: Too complex movement patterns for an individual = effectiveness being sacrificed.

Subscribe to the blog

Interested in becoming a personal trainer
or sports massage therapist?

Leave your details below and a member of the
CMS team will contact you shortly.