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August 21st, 2007

UK Government guidelines recommend that we take 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. But what is “moderate exercise”?

It’s clear that many people who exercise are not working out at the right level of intensity. How many times have you been to the gym and watched a person reading a book or magazine while on the upright bike? How many people do you see each day that are dressed for exercise but are just strolling around the village?

At fitness-etc we believe that one of the simplest ways to check the intensity of your workout is to use the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale.

The RPE is a scale of how hard you feel you are working when you exercise. The scale relates to the responses experienced during exercise and is based on the correlation between perceived exertion, heart rate and oxygen consumption.

To exercise at moderate intensity, you should feel the following physical symptoms. You should feel a rise in your heart rate, your breathing should change from through your nose to through your mouth, you should feel warm and conversation is possible in paragraph type responses. This equates to 6 on the RPE scale.

By comparing your physical response to the table below you can check that you are working out at the right level.

Physical symptom


Heart rate training zone

At rest


Non exercise heart rates

Low level activity


Non exercise heart rates

Light exertion


Non exercise heart rates

Slightly more involved activity, breathing is normal.


Non exercise heart rates

Breathing through the nose, conversation is possible in paragraph statements.


50% of max. heart rate

Change from breathing through the nose to through the mouth.


60% of max. heart rate

Breathing becomes more difficult, slightly out of breath, conversation is possible in sentences.


70% of max. heart rate

Breathing is heavy; conversation is possible in short sentences.


80% of max. heart rate

Sweating, conversation possible in one word answers.


90% of max. heart rate

Maximum effort, hard to maintain for long, unable to hold a conversation.


Maximum heart rate

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