How to Measure Physical Activity Intensity?

It should be noted that there is a difference between intensity of weight and the perceived intensity from physical activity. The latter is about defining the intensity of aerobic activity and its affects on heart rate and breathing, and part recovery (how fast).

The Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion uses the following scale:

  • 6 – No exertion at all, relaxed
  • 7 – Extremely light
  • 8 – Extremely light to very light
  • 9 – Very light
  • 10 – Very light to light
  • 11 – Light
  • 12 – Moderate
  • 13 – Somewhat hard
  • 14 – Somewhat hard to hard
  • 15 – Hard
  • 16 – Hard to very hard
  • 17 – Very hard
  • 18 – Very hard to extremely hard
  • 19 – Extremely hard
  • 20 – Maximal exertion

The ratings we use are:

  • Light
  • Light to moderate
  • Moderate
  • Moderate to vigorous
  • Vigorous
  • Very vigorous

They translate to:

  • Light 6 to 11
  • Light to moderate 7 to 12
  • Moderate 12 to 14
  • Moderate to vigorous 15 to 16
  • Vigorous 17 to 18
  • Very vigorous 19 to 20

Light hardly raises the heart rate and you can easily hold a conversation without needing to stop for air.

Light to moderate is almost on the edge of raising the heart rate to where you start to feel it. Think active recovery and mobility work.

Moderate is how you feel when warming up or going for a light jog and you can still talk.

Moderate to vigorous is when you feel your heart rate is up but you can still stand but talking is becoming harder. You will recover in under a minute.

Vigorous is when you are sweating, red faced, feeling really good, but need some time to recover and you can’t say more than a few words without pausing for a breath. It will take you about a minute to recover.

Very vigorous is when you are flat on the ground in a puddle of sweat gasping for air and literally can’t move or talk anymore. It will take you 2 to 3 minutes to fully recover.

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