Cardiopulmonary exercise testing is a noninvasive tool whose clinical value is not yet widely recognized. The technique involves breath-by-breath measurement of respiratory gas exchange during a symptom-limited exercise test, with determination of maximal oxygen uptake and anaerobic threshold. These measurements serve as objective, reproducible indices of exercise capacity that can be applied to the management of various clinical problems. In addition, by permitting simultaneous assessment of circulatory and ventilatory reserves, the test can be especially helpful in the differential diagnosis of exertional dyspnea and fatigue. This paper reviews the physiology of gas exchange, the limitations of standard exercise tests, and the methodology and clinical applications of cardiopulmonary exercise testing.