Exercise Stress Test

Exercise stress testing

What is it?

Exercise stress testing is used to assess the likelihood of blockages in your heart arteries, and to assess your fitness. Exercise stress testing is sometimes called an ‘exercise tolerance test’, ‘stress test’, ‘exercise ECG’, or ‘treadmill test’.


Do not eat or drink for 4 hours before the test, especially things like coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate that contain caffeine. Also, check whether you should withhold any of your medicines, as some can affect the accuracy of this test.

What should I expect? 

Our nurse-technician will attach suction ECG leads to your chest after cleaning these areas with alcohol which may feel cold. These leads attach to an ECG machine, which records your heart’s electrical activity. You will also wear a blood pressure cuff around your arm: this measures your blood pressure during the test. The blood pressure and the heart rate attained with exercise is a measure of the work the heart is capable of achieving.
A record of your heart’s electrical activity  is taken with an ECG before you start exercising.

During the test, you will walk on a treadmill. The grade and speed will increase every 3 minutes. This will make you feel like you are walking uphill. The workload on the heart will be measured by the standardised stages achieved
During the test we will look for changes in the ECG and blood pressure levels, and heart rate which may indicate that your heart is not getting enough oxygen because of blockages in your heart arteries. Other signs of coronary artery disease include chest pain, or unusual shortness of breath, whilst you are exercising. You should exercise for as long as possible, to ensure that your test is as accurate as it can be. However, you will not be expected to achieve an Olympic standard!

Complications are very rare, but include a risk of heart attack (1 in 1,000 patients) and risk of death (1 in 10,000 patients).

At the end of the test, we will give you a cool-down phase where you may lie down or sit quietly. After the test is over, you may eat, drink and go back to your normal activities. You may take the results with you, and as well , they are e-mailed securely to your referring doctor on the same day.