Exercise Physiology Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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Does exercise testing hurt?

Most exercise tests are non-invasive and cause little or no pain. 

Is exercise testing safe?

The incidence of serious complications resulting from an exercise test is extremely low - much less than 1 percent. Nevertheless, patients are monitored closely throughout the exercise test, and the test is ended promptly if the patient feels ill or if any concerning abnormalities are detected. In addition, medications, equipment and staff are readily available to treat any health problem that may develop during the exercise test. 

How long does an exercise test take, and what determines when the exercise is ended?

The resistance to pedaling or the speed and elevation of the treadmill is gradually increased during the exercise test. Patients are usually encouraged to exercise for as long as they can. The exercise machines are adjusted, according to the patient's capabilities, so that the test usually lasts about 10-15 minutes. If the patient feels ill, or if any concerning abnormalities are detected, the test is ended promptly.

The patient is usually monitored for about 10 minutes post-exercise. Pre-exercise set-up and testing usually takes about 10 minutes. The whole procedure usually is completed in less than 45 minutes.

Can parents stay with children during the exercise test?

Absolutely.

How old must a child be to perform an exercise test?

We have performed exercise tests on children as young as 3 years old. Some of the measurements obtained during an exercise test require a certain amount of cooperation, and cannot reliably be obtained on very young children. We have been able, however, to perform some of the more sophisticated and complicated metabolic measurements on children as young as 4 years old. In general, metabolic measurements are not performed on patients younger than 6 years old.

When do results of an exercise test become available?

A preliminary report is usually generated within 15 minutes of the completion of the exercise test. A final report generally follows within 24-48 hours.

What does my child need to wear to an exercise test?

Comfortable, loose-fitting exercise clothing, such as shorts, sweatpants, T-shirts socks and sneakers.

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Boston Children's Hospital 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944

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