Exercise stress testing

What is an exercise tolerance (stress) test? 

The test involves monitoring your heart rhythm and blood pressure during exercise.

Why do I need the test?

You may have experienced chest pain or breathlessness, or have had a heart operation, and your doctor wants to find out more about how your heart is working during exercise. The test can also be carried out as part of a screening programme for coronary artery disease.

How is the test carried out?

The test takes about 30 minutes to complete and is carried out by a cardiac physiologist and a doctor. Someone will be with you during the entire test, so please ask us if you have any questions. 

We will ask you to undress to the waist and put on a hospital gown. A cardiac physiologist will place 10 electrodes (small sticky patches connected to leads) on your chest. The electrodes are connected to a monitor that records the rhythm and electrical activity of your heart. This is known as an electrocardiogram (ECG).

Before you start to exercise, we will take a resting ECG while you are sitting down. We will then place a blood pressure cuff around your arm so we can measure your blood pressure during the test, and ask you to step onto a treadmill, similar to the ones used in gyms.

You will walk on the treadmill, quite slowly at first. Every three minutes the machine will move a little faster and become slightly steeper. This makes your heart work harder as the test goes on. Depending on your ability, the exercise will last around 15 minutes. The treadmill will then slow down gradually. You may ask for the machine to be stopped at any time if you start feeling any pain or discomfort. Please follow the advice of the physiologist or doctor. It is important that you wait until the treadmill has come to a complete stop before you step off it. We have a shower and changing area if you would like to use them to freshen up before you go home.