If your doctor has ordered that you undergo a stress test, you may be unsure of what to expect. From understanding how to prepare to learning more about how stress test systems will be used during your testing session, it can be confusing and unnerving to go through this type of testing. Let’s take a look at what you can expect if and when your doctor hooks you up to stress test systems to determine your body’s reaction to stress.

Also known as an exercise stress test, a stress test is a way for your doctor to understand how your body responds to stress in a controlled environment. Before your stress test, your doctor will give you specific instructions to follow. It’s important that you ask questions if you do not understand the instructions, as failure to follow them could invalidate the results of your stress test. If you use an inhaler, it’s important to bring it to your stress test, even if you don’t plan on using it.

Your appointment will last about 60 minutes, while the actual exercise portion of the test will only last about 15 minutes. A doctor or nurse will attach sticky electrodes to various parts of the body. Don’t worry – these electrodes don’t cause any pain. They send information to a computer to help your doctor learn more about how your body responds to stress. During your stress test, you’ll walk or jog on a treadmill, or your doctor may have you ride a stationary bike.

Your medical team will monitor your progress throughout the stress test, noting how the stress of exercise affects your heart and other parts of your body. You’ll continue until you reach the target your doctor has set for you, or until your symptoms of stress make you unable to continue exercising.

Your doctor will use the result of your stress test to gain more information on how your heart, respiratory, and other systems in your body are performing. Your doctor may be able to give you some results right away, or they may ask that you make a separate appointment to go over the results of your stress test. Typically, you’ll be able to return to your normal activities immediately following your stress test.

If your doctor has ordered a stress test, completing it is the right thing to do to help your medical team gain insight into the best approach to your health care. If you have questions about your stress test, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor.