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Exercise Electrocardiogram

How It Is Done continued...

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 incline.
  • 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 level.

After the test

When the exercise phase is completed:

  • 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.

The entire test usually takes 15 to 30 minutes.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 11, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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