Mode of exercise

A number of studies have reported variations in the physiological strain at the same RPE when performing different exercises (Eston and Williams, 1988; Thomas, et al., 1995; Zeni, et al., 1996; Buckley, et al, 2000; Moyna, et al., 2001). Table 3.5 summarises these.

The three main explanations for physiological strain differences for a given RPE were that:

• Different modes of exercise each have a mode-specific VO2max.

• Individuals are likely to be more trained in one activity than another.

Table 3.5. Differences in physiological strain at the same RPE in a variety of exercise machines

Exercise Mode %HRmax at RPE 13

Treadmill 85%

Stepping machine 75%

Rowing ergometry 75%

Cross-country ski machine 73%

Cycle ergometer 69%

(Adapted from: Thomas, et al., 1995; Zeni, et al., 1996; Eston and Williams, 1988; Moyna, et al., 2001; Buckley, et al., 2000.)

• The motor-skill familiarisation and types of muscle movements recruited to perform specific activities lead to different energy usage economies.

These three factors demonstrate the sensitivity of RPE in detecting exercise mode differences, summarised in Table 3.5, which relate to the concepts of specificity of training and training status. The concept of specificity of training is that training adaptations occur only in those muscles or individual muscle units involved in the activity (Astrand, et al., 2003). Typically, the average person more frequently uses muscle units for walking and stepping actions compared to cycling, rowing and cross-country skiing. In healthy and cardiac populations, a specific muscle unit that is more frequently used (trained) results in a lowered production of lactate for a given VO2 or heart rate compared with a less trained muscle unit (Ekblom, et al., 1968; Sullivan, et al., 1989; Meyer, et al, 1990; Goodman, et al., 1999).

Figure 3.6 illustrates how RPE is independent of training status as it does not change for a given blood lactate. Both %HRmax or %VO2max at a given RPE alter with a change in training status. RPE may therefore be more closely linked to blood lactate than %HRmax and %VO2max, which is a function of muscle metabolism. In practical terms this means that for progressing exercise intensity, by working to the same RPE, the patient's exercise intensity will be automatically adjusted for both the expected increase in VO2max and work rate that corresponds to the lactate threshold. This was not true for HR, as explained earlier in this chapter, where over time it should be progressed towards the upper end of the recommended target zone. Figure 3.7 (p. 78) summarises the link between the typical target RPE of 13 (somewhat hard) and HR, VO2 and blood lactate.

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