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What is Pulmonary Exercise Testing?

A pulmonary exercise test measures many of your body’s functions, including the rate and rhythm of your heartbeat; blood pressure; breathing patterns; exhaled air; blood oxygen and carbon dioxide; and your general physical condition. It involves exercising on either a stationary bike or a treadmill, with the amount of exercise you are asked to do being gradually increased. We may also ask you to repeat the test while we give you extra oxygen.

Pulmonary exercise tests are ordered by your physician if you easily become short of breath. These tests can answer many questions about your general physical condition, such as:

  1. Why do I become short of breath?
  2. How does my body respond to exercise?
  3. How much exercise can I perform?
  4. Should I use additional oxygen as I exercise?
How long will test take?

The exercise testing session can take from one to three hours, depending on which tests your doctor has ordered for you. The actual exercise time, though, is usually limited to 10-15 minutes, sometimes less.

You should perform these tests to the very best of your ability. This makes the results more useful, providing the most accurate and reliable data to analyze.

Things you need to know

Unless you are told otherwise, continue to take all prescribed medications as usual. IMPORTANT: Do not confuse this instruction with that of the “pulmonary function testing.” The pulmonary function test usually requires you to discontinue any breathing medications 4 hours prior to taking test.

Other important things you need to know:

  1. Avoid all heavy, rich and hard-to-digest foods for at least six hours prior to your appointment. If you do eat, eat only light foods. No food at all one hour prior to your appointment. Alcohol, food or drinks containing caffeine (coffee, tea, cola, chocolate) and smoking of any kind should be avoided for 12 hours prior to your test. You should not engage in vigorous exercise two hours before your appointment.
  2. You will be much more comfortable wearing casual attire (shoes and slacks). Shoes should be rubbersoled, flat-bottomed and completely cover the toes and top of the foot. Jogging or tennis shoes are the best. Do not wear high heels, sandals or open-toed shoes. Slacks or shorts should fit loosely, and you may be given a hospital gown to wear as a shirt.