Modeling trajectories of perceived leg exertion during maximal cycle ergometer exercise in children and adolescents

Marianne Huebner, Zhen Zhang, Terry Therneau, Patrick McGrath, Paolo Pianosi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Borg developed scales for rating pain and perceived exertion in adults that have also been used in pediatric populations. Models describing functional relationships between perceived exertion and work capacity have not been studied in children. We compared different models and their fits to individual trajectories and assessed the variability in these trajectories. Methods. Ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) were collected from 79 children. Progressive cycle ergonometric testing was performed to maximal work capacity with test duration ranging from 6- 12 minutes. Ratings were obtained during each 1-minute increment. Work was normalized to individual maximal work capacity (Wmax). A delay was defined as the fraction of Wmax at which point an increase in ratings of leg fatigue occurred. Such a delay term allows the characterization of trajectories for children whose ratings were initially constant with increasing work. Two models were considered, a delay model and a power model that is commonly used to analyze Borg ratings. Individual model fit was assessed with root mean squared error (RMSE). Functional clustering algorithms were used to identify patterns. Results: Leg tiredness developed quickly for some children while for others there was a delay before an in- creased ratings of leg exertion occurred with increasing work. Models for individual trajectories with the smallest RMSE included a delay and a quadratic term (quadratic-delay model), or a power function and a delay term (power-delay model) compared to a simple power function. The median delay was 40% Wmax (interquartile range (IQR): 26-49%) in a quadratic-delay model, while the median exponent was 1.03 (IQR: 0.83-1.78) in a power-delay model. Nine clusters were identified showing linear or quadratic patterns with or without a delay. Cluster membership did not depend on age, gender or diagnosis. Conclusion: Children and adolescents vary widely in their capacity to rate their perceptions and exhibit different functional relationships between ratings of perceived exertion and work capacity normalized across individuals. Models including a delay term, a linear component, or a power function can describe these individual trajectories of perceived leg exertion during incremental exercise to voluntary exhaustion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4
JournalBMC Medical Research Methodology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 9 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this study was received by the Lung Association of Nova Scotia, and by the Department of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine Research Award, Mayo Clinic.


  • Borg scale
  • Children
  • Delay
  • Ergometer exercise
  • Perceived leg exertion
  • Power model


Dive into the research topics of 'Modeling trajectories of perceived leg exertion during maximal cycle ergometer exercise in children and adolescents'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this