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Exercise Stress Test

Man with wires attached to chest walking on treadmill. Wires go to ECG machine next to treadmill. Healthcare provider is monitoring ECG machine.

An exercise stress test shows your heart’s response to exercise. Your health care provider often gives you this test to evaluate the blood flow to your heart, your exercise tolerance, or the presence of a heart rhythm disturbance. The test records your heartbeat while you walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike. The test can be done in a hospital, a test center, or your doctor’s office. The test is also called a stress electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG).

Before Your Test

  • Be sure to mention the medications you take and ask if it’s okay to take them before the test.

  • Avoid food and drinks containing caffeine.

  • Don’t eat, drink, smoke, or have any caffeine for 3 hours before the test.

Getting Ready

  • Wear comfortable walking or running shoes.

  • Wear a shirt or a blouse that you can remove easily. You may be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up. Women may wear a gown.

During Your Test

  • Electrodes (small pads) are placed on your upper body and a blood pressure cuff on your arm. These are used to monitor your heartbeat and blood pressure during and after the test.

  • You are shown how to use the treadmill or bike.

  • You are then asked to exercise for several minutes. Expect the exercise to be easy at first. It will slowly get harder, with an increase in speed and incline every few minutes.

  • Exercise as long as you can, or until you are asked to stop.

Be sure to tell your health care provider if you feel any of the following:

  • Chest, arm, or jaw discomfort

  • Severe shortness of breath

  • Fatigue

  • Dizziness

  • Leg cramps or soreness

After the Test

  • You can resume your normal activity, unless otherwise instructed. 

  • The results are sent to your doctor.

  • Be sure to keep your follow-up appointment.

Report Any Symptoms

Be sure to tell your health care provider if you feel:

  • Chest, arm, or jaw discomfort

  • Severe shortness of breath

  • Fatigue

  • Dizziness

  • Leg cramps or soreness


Your next appointment is: ____________________

Online Medical Reviewer: Fincannon, Joy, RN, MN
Online Medical Reviewer: Image reviewed by StayWell art team.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 2/26/2014
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.