The test is usually
performed in a series of stages, each lasting 3 minutes. After each 3-minute
stage, the resistance or speed of the treadmill or bicycle is increased.
For the treadmill test, the treadmill will move slowly in a level or slightly inclined
position. As the test progresses, the speed and steepness of the treadmill will
be increased so that you will be walking faster and at a greater
For the stationary bicycle, you
will sit on the bicycle with the seat and handlebars adjusted so that you can
pedal comfortably. You can use the handlebars to help you balance, but you
should not use them to support your weight. You will be asked to pedal fast
enough to maintain a certain speed. The resistance will then be gradually
increased, making it harder to pedal.
In both the treadmill and the bicycle tests, your EKG, heart
rate, and blood pressure will be recorded during the exercise. Your heart rate
and EKG will be recorded continuously. Your blood pressure is usually measured
during the second minute of each stage. It may be measured more frequently if
the readings are too high or too low. During the test, you might be asked to give a number that answers the question "How hard do you feel the exercise is?" The number will be on a scale from 6 to 20 and is called a rating of perceived exertion.
The test continues until you
need to stop, until you reach your maximum heart rate, until you begin to show
symptoms of stress on your heart and lungs (such as fatigue, extreme shortness
of breath, or angina), or until the EKG tracing shows decreased blood flow to
your heart muscle.
The test may also be stopped if you develop
serious irregular heartbeats or if your blood pressure drops below your resting
After the test
When the exercise phase is
You will be able to sit or lie down and rest.
Your EKG and blood pressure will be checked for about 5 to 10
minutes during this time.
The electrodes are then removed from your
chest, and you may resume your normal activities.
Do not take a hot
bath or shower for at least an hour, since hot water after vigorous exercise
can make you feel dizzy and faint.