What is an exercise stress test used for?

The test is used to:

  • Determine your likelihood of having coronary artery disease
  • Identify abnormal heart rhythms
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of your cardiac treatment plan
  • Help you develop a safe exercise program

What should I wear on the day of the test?

Wear light clothes suitable for walking. Please do not bring valuables. You will be given a locker to store your belongings during the test.

What happens during the test?

  • Your test will take place in the Stress Lab. The testing area is supervised by a physician.
  • First, a stress lab technician will gently rub 10 small areas on your chest and place electrodes (small, flat, sticky patches) on these areas. The electrodes are attached to an electrocardiograph (EKG) monitor that charts your heart’s electrical activity during the test.
  • Before you start exercising, the technician will perform a resting EKG, measure your resting heart rate and take your blood pressure.
  • You will exercise on a treadmill. The lab personnel will ask you to start exercising and will gradually increase the intensity of exercise. You will be asked to continue exercising until you are exhausted
  • and /or reach your target heart rate for your age.​
  • Target heart rate (bpm) = (220-age) * 85%
  • At regular intervals, the lab personnel will ask how you are feeling. Please tell them if you feel chest, arm or jaw pain or discomfort; short of breath, dizzy, lightheaded or if you have any other unusual symptoms.
  • The lab personnel will watch for any changes on the EKG monitor that suggest the test should be stopped.
  • After the test, you will walk slowly for a few minutes to cool down. Your heart rate, blood pressure, and EKG will continue to be monitored until the levels are returning to normal.

Are there any conditions where exercise EKG test may be difficult to interpret?

​Presence of pacemaker rhythm or electrical conduction problems such as left bundle branch block make ECG interpretation difficult and therefore this will require an alternative test such persantine myocardial perfusion scan to evaluate for ischemia.