Monitoring Heart Rate Still is Useful
The above discussion may suggest that we should not utilize target heart rate for assessing exercise intensity. In reality, monitoring heart rate during exercise is important and useful, provided that the fitness instructor and participant understand the concept and implementation of perceived exertion being an essential component of successfully assessing exercise intensity.
Furthermore, there are several individual health and fitness profiles where monitoring heart rate closely and consistently is very important or absolutely essential. One profile that warrants close monitoring of heart rate is an individual with stable exertional angina. This person will consistently experience anginal symptoms above a certain myocardial demand (double product) threshold, which is best monitored during exercise by measuring pulse.
Another profile is the elite competitive athlete, whose strict training regimen necessitates close monitoring of heart rate to optimize training benefits and minimize the risk of overtraining.
The most common assessments of perceived exertion involve the use of either the original 6 to 20 Borg Scale,(3) or the modified 0 to 10 Borg Scale.(4) In addition, ratings related to dyspnea(2) (shortness of breath) and angina1 (pain) are also utilized, especially in clinical settings.
The first recommendation regarding the use of perceived exertion is for the instructor to choose a scale and then take the time to fully explain its relevance and mechanics to the exercise participant. Unfortunately, perceived exertion has traditionally been overlooked or inadequately emphasized and explained to clients.
This issue is especially important when considering novice exercise participants who are commonly uncomfortable and perhaps unable to accurately measure their pulse during exercise, and who are given no instruction on how to subjectively assess the difficulty of their workout via perceived exertion. Even if individuals are able to correctly count their pulse, they often will not develop the proper feel for exercise intensity. Consequently, they will be less able to safely and effectively adjust their intensity during a given workout, as well as over time, in order to enhance their training benefits, enjoyment and, ultimately, their adherence to a regular quality endurance exercise program.