Last Updated on Sep 01, 2014

How the Exercise Stress Test Is Performed

The patient is asked to walk on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bike at increasing levels of difficulty.

Meanwhile electrocardiogram (ECG), heart rate, and blood pressure are monitored. During exercise, the bodyís requirement for oxygen increases and the heartís reaction to this stress is assessed.

Baseline heart rate and blood pressure are measured before the test. Electrodes are placed on the chest to record the heartís electrical activity. The blood pressure cuff on the arm is inflated every few minutes. It is normal for the heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and perspiration to increase during the test. The patient has to report any unusual symptom like chest, arm, or jaw pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, dizziness, light-headedness.

The test is continued till:

  • A target heart rate is reached
  • The patient develops complications like chest pain, abnormal changes in blood pressure (rise or drop)
  • ECG changes show that the heart muscles are not getting sufficient oxygen

The patient is monitored for another 10-15 minutes, or until the heart rate returns to normal.


  1. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 8th ed.

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