Reference Standards for Peak Rating of Perceived Exertion During Cardiopulmonary Exercise Testing: Data from FRIEND.

Peterman JE; Arena R; Myers J;Harber MP;Squires RW; Kaminsky LA;

Medicine and science in sports and exercise [Med Sci Sports Exerc] 2022 Aug 12.
Date of Electronic Publication: 2022 Aug 12.

Introduction: Peak rating of perceived exertion (RPE) is measured during clinical cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPX) and is commonly used as a subjective indicator of maximal effort. However, no study to date has reported reference standards or the distribution of peak RPE across a large cohort of apparently healthy individuals.
Purpose: To determine reference standards for peak RPE when using the 6 – 20 Borg scale for both treadmill and cycle tests.
Methods: The analysis included 9,551 tests (8,821 treadmill, 730 cycle ergometer) from 13 laboratories within the Fitness Registry and Importance of Exercise National Database (FRIEND). Using data from tests conducted January 1, 1980, through January 1, 2021, percentiles of peak RPE for males and females were determined for each decade from 20 through 89 years of age for treadmill and cycle exercise modes. Two-way analysis of variance was used to compare differences in peak RPE values between sexes and across age groups.
Results: There were statistically significant differences in RPE between age groups whether the test was performed on a treadmill or cycle ergometer (P < 0.05). However, the mean and median RPE for each sex, age group, and test mode was between 18 and 19. Additionally, 83% of participants met the traditional RPE criteria of ≥18 for indicating sufficient maximal effort.
Conclusions: This report provides the first normative reference standards for peak RPE in both males and females performing CPX on a treadmill or cycle ergometer. Further, these reference standards highlight the general consistency of peak RPE responses during CPX.