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It is often difficult to select an appropriate workload increment for progressive cycle exercise tests in order to achieve optimal test duration (8–12 min). We hypothesize that baseline respiratory function can be systematically used to select appropriate workload increment to optimize test duration in patients referred to the clinical laboratory.One hundred and eighty consecutive exercise tests (with increments of 15 W/min) were retrospectively assessed. Using regression analysis, an equation was generated that predicts the work rate increment that would provide exercise duration of 8–12 min. The validity of this equation was tested prospectively in 231 consecutive tests performed with the calculated workload increment rounded to the nearest 5 watts (W).The best regression equation was: workload increment (W/min) = 1.94 × FEV1 (L) + 0.63 × TLCO (mmol/min per kPa) −0.07 × age + 1.94 × gender (male = 1, female = 0) + 4.12 (r = 0.85, P < 0.0001). Using this equation allowed selection of the most appropriate workload increment in 79% of tests and reduced the number of tests of non-optimal duration from 72% (for a fixed increment of 15 W/min) to 38%.Utilization of this regression equation allows standardization in the selection of workload increment, and reduces the number of cycle exercise tests of inadequate duration.