Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Reliability of Heart Rate Responses at Given Ratings of Perceived Exertion in Cycling and Walking

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Reliability of Heart Rate Responses at Given Ratings of Perceived Exertion in Cycling and Walking

Article excerpt

Eleven healthy men (M age = 27 years, SD = 4) completed three cycling and three walking trials in an alternating order. During each trial, participants were allowed, within 3 min, to adjust the work rate to correspond to given rating of perceived exertion (RPE) values according to the following order: RPE 11, 13, and 15. For cycling as well as walking, at each RPE there were no significant differences between mean heart rate responses across the three trials (p >. 05). Mode-specific estimates for heart rate intraclass correlation coefficient and coefficient of variation ranged between .80 and .91, and 5.6 % and 8.3 %, respectively. This study provides absolute reliability estimates for heart rate responses when using RPE in a production format and suggests there may be RPE- (and mode) specific practice requirements for achieving a reliable heart rate response at a given RPE.

Key words: cardiovascular response, day-to-day reproducibility, heart rate consistency, rate of perceived exertion


Researchers have compared heart rate responses of various exercise modes performed at a given rating of perceived exertion (RPE; Thomas, Ziogas, Smith, Zhang, & Londeree, 1995; Zeni, Hoffman, & Clifford, 1996) of the Borg scale (Borg, 1970). When the purpose is to make cross-modal comparisons or investigate the effects of environmental conditions, nutritional supplementation, or drug therapy on heart rate at a given RPE, it is necessary to elicit a reliable heart rate response under standardized conditions. This is particularly important when small but physiologically meaningful changes are expected in heart rate response due to the intervention. Further, when the purpose is to regulate the exercise intensity, use of the RPE is practical only when an individual can reliably elicit given RPE-mediated exercise intensities as documented by an objective measure, such as the heart rate.

Previous research has suggested that RPE can be used to elicit reliable heart rate responses only at heart rates above 150 beats x [min.sub.-1] (Smutok, Skrinar, & Pandolf, 1980). However, that study assessed reliability during only two trials. Current study design recommendations emphasize that reliability can only be assessed precisely by repeating a measurement over at least three trials (Hopkins, 2000). When three trials were used, the RPE was proposed as a practical tool to reliably elicit a given heart rate response (Dishman, Patton, Smith, Weinberg, &Jackson, 1987). However, in the latter study, RPE feedback from a graded exercise test was used in conjunction with heart rate feedback, which does not allow for determining the role of RPE alone in reliably eliciting a given heart rate. The participants chose between walking and running, which did not allow for determining mode-specific reliability estimates, while at the same time there have been reported differences in the RPE between running and walking at comparable intensities (Berry, Weyrich, Robergs, Krause, & Ingalls, 1989). Further, the study by Dishman et al. (1987) was performed in an open track field, which does not provide standardized environmental conditions to estimate reliability indexes.

Evidence under more controlled conditions for the reliability of the heart rate response at selected RPE values has been provided by Eston & Williams (1988), who assessed the reliability of heart rate response during cycling at RPE 9, 13, and 17 and had their participants perform three trials on separate days. They indicated that RPE resulted in reproducible physiological responses at the higher exercise intensity, while the practice improved the reliability at the two lower exercise intensities. It is not known to what extent the Eston & Williams findings can be applied to walking. Muscle involvement differs between cycling and walking, and a local aspect of perceived effort is more important in cycling, whereas a central aspect is more important in walking (Pandolf, Burse, & Goldman, 1975). …

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