The Borg Scale is a method to measure a person’s perceived exertion rate. Developed by Stockholm University professor Gunnar Borg during the 1980s, the scale does not require any equipment, but asks participants who engage in physical activity to assess his or her perceived rate of exertion from light to strenuous. The scale measures exertion in a range between six and 20. During exertion, a person puts the Borg Scale to use by deciding how strenuous his or her activity is. On the scale, six is the lowest level and 20 is the highest.
During activity a person is asked to honestly evaluate his or her level of effort and assign it a number between six and 20. This number is called the rating of perceived exertion. Six represents a person who is not putting forth effort. If a person rates his or her perceived exertion between seven and eight, he or she is exerting modest effort. Nine and 10 is considered very light activity, such as walking comfortably.
As the numbers rise, a person’s level of perceived effort increases. A rating of perceived exertion of 11 or 12 is classified as light and is an activity that needs some effort but not enough to cause the person to be out of breath. At 13 or 14, a person is engaging in activity that quickens the heart rate. When the scale reaches 15, a person is breathing fast and experiencing a racing heart and at 20, a person is working at a level that cannot be maintained for any great length of time.
A correlation exists between the Borg Scale result and a person’s actual heart rate. A person can multiply his or her rate of physical exertion by 10 to provide an approximation of actual heart rate during physical activity. If a person’s rating of perceived exertion is 15, than his or her heart rate can be estimated at 150 beats per minute. Estimation may fluctuate depending on a person’s age and health.
Perceived exertion is how intense a person believes his or her body is working. During physical activity, a person will undergo an increased heart rate, level of breathing, perspiration, and muscle fatigue. By keeping track of how the body feels during physical activity, a person can decide when to increase or decrease intensity.
While the original Borg Scale uses a measurement between six and 20, another version exists. An updated version by the American College of Sports Medicine measures perceived exertion between 0 and 10. Zero indicates no perceived exertion while 10 denotes the highest level possible.