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Are You Exerting Yourself?

Wed, 5 Apr 2006 by Denise Austin

Are your workouts working for you? Not sure? One way to tell is by using a method called the rate of perceived exertion, or RPE. It helps ensure that you're working out to your optimal level! Aim too low and you'll just be going through the motions without much benefit. Aim too high and you could end up frustrated, burned out, or injured! So how do you find a pace that's just right? Think of exertion on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being no exertion (sitting in a chair, for example) and 10 being the most you can possibly do. A moderate walk might put you at a 3. Remember, it's not about how fast you're walking, it's about how strenuous it feels. Aim for a range between 3 (moderate) and 5 (strong), say experts at the American Council on Exercise. You should feel you're exerting yourself enough to gain cardiovascular benefit, but not so hard that it's difficult or uncomfortable to sustain your workout.

As your strength and fitness level increases, bump up the intensity to compensate, aiming to stay within your newly defined 3-to-5 range. The best thing about perceived exertion is that you can use it for any workout walking, jogging, bicycling, bench stepping, climbing stairs, or performing low-impact aerobics! And be sure to keep checking in when you're working out!

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