Menu Close

Exercise Stress Test Information

What is an exercise stress test?

An exercise stress test is a screening tool that is used to determine how well your heart responds during exercise.

Why do an exercise stress test?

An exercise stress test can help your doctor look for:

  • Coronary artery disease: blockages in the arteries of your heart
  • Arrhythmias: abnormal heart rhythms
  • Heart rate dysfunction: abnormal heart rate during exercise
  • Exercise tolerance: how well you can exercise

The risk of an exercise stress test

Stress tests are done in a controlled environment under the supervision of trained professionals. The ordering physician has screened you before ordering this test. However, some risks are associated with an exercise stress test:

  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Fainting/collapsing
  • Heart attack (rare)

How to prepare for an exercise stress test

Prior to arrival, you should ensure to:

  • Bring your health card
  • Bring an up-to-date medication list
    • You may be instructed to hold certain medications before the test, such as beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers. Your doctor will give you specific instructions.
  • Bring a list of your medication allergies
  • Bring inhalers if needed
  • Wear comfortable clothing and shoes

How long will the test take?

The appointment will take about 45 minutes to complete. The actual exercise time is different for everyone, but typically takes between 7 to 12 minutes.

How an exercise stress test is performed

  • The ECG Technician or Registered Nurse will explain the procedure and obtain written consent.
  • You will be asked to remove all upper body clothing and put a gown with the opening to the front.
  • Electrode stickers will be attached to the front of your chest. The ECG Technician or Registered Nurse may have to shave your chest (if necessary) and prepare your skin with sandpaper tape and alcohol.
  • A resting electrocardiogram (ECG) and blood pressure will be recorded prior to exercise.
  • Most patients will exercise on a treadmill, starting with a slow walk. The incline and the speed of the treadmill will increase every 3 minutes and gradually progress to a brisk walk uphill and then to a jog or run uphill.
  • You will be monitored with continuous ECGs and periodic blood pressures.
  • The test will end when you have reached your maximum heart rate, when you desire to stop, or when another stress endpoint is reached.
  • You will be monitored for at least 5 minutes after exercise.

How do I get the results of my test?

After a cardiologist has reviewed your test, the results will be entered into your electronic medical record. If your cardiologist ordered the test, they will be the ones to discuss the results with you. If it was your family doctor who ordered the test, the results will be followed up by them.