Exercise EKG Testing

Exercise EKG testing is a diagnostic test that doctors use to see how your child’s heart reacts to stress or exercise.

How does an exercise EKG test work?

  • Electrodes (small, plastic patches) are placed on your child's chest, arms, and legs.
  • A blood pressure cuff monitors her blood pressure.
  • Your child begins to exercise on a treadmill or stationery bike.
  • The electrodes are connected to the EKG machine by lead wires, through which the electrical activity of your child's heart is measured, interpreted, and printed out.
  • Resistance and speed are varied in order to give a harder or easier workout.
  • Your child will exercise until reaching a target heart rate or until unable to continue due to fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, irregular heart rhythms, or other symptoms.

How should I prepare my child for exercise EKG testing?

The procedure will take about one hour, including check-in and preparation.

A hospital stay is not necessary unless your child's physician determines that your child's condition requires further observation or hospital admission.

Your child may feel a little tired or sore for a few hours after the procedure, particularly if he isn’t used to exercising. Otherwise, your child should feel normal within a few hours.

How Boston Children’s Hospital approaches exercise EKG testing

Boston Children’s researchers use exercise testing to study the ways in which various heart procedures affect a patient’s functioning both right after surgery and far off into the future. Our recent studies have looked at:

  • exercise performance for the first 20 years after cardiac surgery
  • the effects of certain surgeries on how well a child can exercise
  • whether exercise testing can predict a patient’s long-term health