How hard do I work when I exercise? Borg RPE scale, the talking test and target heart rate range

Often times, clients ask me “How much am I supposed to work out when doing cardio?” Basically, this refers to the intensity of the training. The harder you push yourself, the more calories you’ll burn and the faster you’ll lose weight and reach your goals. There are three main ways to determine how hard to work, including the Borg RPE scale, the speech test, and the target heart rate range.

1. Follow the Borg RPE scale. This is a scale that goes from 0 to 10 depending on the difficulty or ease with which you are exercising. Zero is equivalent to sitting in a chair, while ten is very difficult and can only be sustained for a short period of time, a few minutes. Generally, you should be between a 4 and a 6 to get the most benefit from your training.

0 – Nothing at all

0.5 – Only noticeable

1 – Very light

2 – Light

3 – Moderate

4 – Something heavy

5 – Heavy


7 – Very heavy



10 – Very, very heavy

two. Try the speech test. You want to get to a point where talking is a bit difficult while exercising, but it can still be done. If speaking is too easy, pick up the pace, or if you are wheezing and can’t speak if you try, then you need to slow down until you can.

3. Determine your target heart rate range. Whether you count it yourself or wear a monitor, your pulse can be a great measure of intensity. You want to keep your target heart rate range between 65 and 85% of your maximum heart rate.

To determine your maximum heart rate, use this formula:

220 – Your age

Once you have that number, multiply it by .65 and by .85 to get your target heart rate range. This number gives you the beats per minute you should expect to reach a fat burning intensity. Please note that this is an estimate and that some medications can affect your pulse.

By using the Borg RPE scale, the talking test, and your target heart rate range, you should be able to determine how hard you work when you exercise for your workouts to be effective and burn those calories so you can lose weight and be healthier. .