Exercise Stress Test
A Guide to Help You Get Ready
What is an Exercise Stress Test?
This test is done while you either walk on a
treadmill or pedal a stationary bike. It
allows doctors to learn how the heart
functions when it is made to work harder.
This test is useful in diagnosing coronary
heart disease. This is caused by blockages
in the coronary arteries. These are the blood
vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to the
Getting Ready for the Test
Do not eat or drink for 4 hours
before the test. This will help
prevent you from feeling sick to your
stomach, which can happen when
you exercise after eating. If you
have diabetes, be sure to ask your
doctor for special instructions.
Do not smoke for at least 3 hours
before the test.
If you are currently taking any
heart medicine or have questions
or concerns, check with your doctor.
He or she may ask you to stop
certain medicines a day or two
before the test. This can help get
better test results. If you have
questions about the test, call the
Heart and Vascular Care Testing
Lab at (608) 263-9014.
Avoid any hard exercise on the day
of the test.
Wear loose clothing that is good to
exercise in. Men often do not wear a
shirt during the test. Women wear a
loose-fitting blouse or hospital gown.
Wear walking shoes or sneakers
that fit well.
Several electrodes (small sticky
patches) will be placed on your chest
to obtain an electrocardiogram
(ECG). This is a record of the
heart’s electrical activity. In order to
obtain a good connection with the
electrodes, your skin will be rubbed
with alcohol pads. You may notice
some skin soreness after the test.
This should go away in a day or two.
Men may need to have part of their
chest shaved to be sure the test
results are correct.
Before the test, you will be told how the test
will be done. You will also be asked to sign
a consent form. Feel free to ask any
questions about the test.
After a brief exam, you will be asked to
exercise either by walking on a treadmill or
pedaling a bike. This will begin slow and
easy. It will slowly become harder.
You will be told to report any symptoms,
such as chest or arm pain, shortness of
breath, leg fatigue, or if you feel dizzy. The
person doing the test will decide when to
end the test. This will be when your heart
beats at the target rate, when you get too
tired, or if you have any problems.
The exercise portion of the test often takes 5
to 15 minutes. You should allow an hour for
the whole test. This includes getting ready,
the exercise portion, and recovery period.
Your Tests Results
Your own doctor will talk to you about the
test results during a future office visit or by
The results of this test will help your doctor
know how your heart is working. It will
help them to come up with a treatment plan
that is best for you.
The Spanish version of this Health Facts for You is #5950.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 5/2017 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5491