Kilpatrick, M., Powers, J., Mears, J., Ferrer, N., & Wagman, J. (2008). Comparison of perceived exertion ratings before, during, and after three different bouts of aerobic exercise. ACSM 55th Annual Meeting Indianapolis. Presentation number 947.

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"The use of ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) by fitness professionals and exercisers is common. RPE was originally used to provide a subjective estimation of exercise intensity during exercise, but is now also used to produce exercise sessions at various physiological intensities and report the intensity of completed exercise sessions. Only a limited amount of research has compared RPE values obtained before, during, and after exercise sessions."

This study determined the relationship between ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) values provided before, during, and after three different bouts of exercise performed at different self-selected intensities on a treadmill. Ss (M = 10; F = 16) were tested for aerobic fitness to determine VO2max. Ss completed three 30-minute trials of treadmill exercise at a self-selected intensity corresponding to verbal prescriptions of being light, moderate, and vigorous. Treadmill speed in mph was adjusted every five minutes as necessary to maintain the prescribed intensity. RPE using the OMNI picture system was taken immediately before, every five minutes during, immediately after, and 15 minutes after exercise.

Average treadmill speed and in-task RPE were different for each trial. Pre-exercise estimated RPE was higher than mean in-task RPE in all trials. Post-exercise RPE was higher than mean in-task RPE in the moderate and vigorous trials.

Implication. Self-selected light, moderate, and vigorous treadmill exercise produces distinct in-task RPE responses. Ss overestimate the RPE associated with self-selected light, moderate, and vigorous exercise sessions. Post-exercise assessments of RPE are higher than observed in-task RPE except for exercise at lower intensities. The overestimation of RPE both before and after exercise may need to be taken into consideration when prescriptions are developed, especially for moderate and vigorous exercise.

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