Skip to main content
Cardiothoracic Services

This site is best viewed with a modern browser. You appear to be using an old version of Internet Explorer.

Exercise tolerance testing (ETT)

Exercise tolerance testing assesses the electrical activity of the heart under physiological stress.

We use either a treadmill or ergometer (bike) to increase your heart rate so we can monitor your heart rate and rhythm.

The test involves having ECG electrodes (stickers) applied to your torso in precise positions with ten wires linking these stickers to a box that is tied around your waist.

We also fit you with a blood pressure cuff for the duration of the test, and record your blood pressure at set intervals.

The test takes about 45 minutes, which includes setting up, performing the test and a cooling down period.

Preparing for your ETT

If you smoke, please avoid smoking for at least eight hours before the test.

Do not eat, or drink coffee, tea or any other drinks containing caffeine for at least three hours before the test.

This is to make sure that the measurements we take are as accurate as possible.

Please refrain from using moisturising soaps or moisturiser on your chest prior to your appointment as this can affect how well the electrodes stick to your chest.

Please wear comfortable clothing and shoes that are suitable for exercise.

Sandals, high heels, boots and open-toed shoes are not advised. It is possible (although uncomfortable) to perform the treadmill test barefoot, but not the bike test.

Your ETT appointment

Most tests use the same changes in incline and speed for the treadmill and the same change of resistance for the bike.

We do not have a set workload or time goal and ask you for maximum effort where possible.

We monitor you closely, and may ask you to continue exercising for longer, with encouragement, or ask you to stop earlier than you think necessary.

The treadmill usually increases its speed and incline every three minutes. It is driven by a motor and does go fairly quickly. If you are concerned about your ability to perform this test, please contact us before your appointment.

The bike uses magnets to gradually increase the resistance of the pedals making it harder and harder to pedal. The test requires good mobility and ideally you should be able to walk on a treadmill for at least nine minutes.

It is vitally important to tell us immediately if you have symptoms, or feel you need to stop, at any time during the tests.

We may need to record your ECG and blood pressure at those times or stop the test altogether.

Do not to stop walking on the treadmill without telling us first as the treadmill will continue and you could fall off the equipment.


We send your results directly to your referring consultant.

We cannot give you your results as we do not know your full medical history, which will affect how the readings are interpreted.

Find us and contact us

Please see Electrocardiogram (ECG) - Find us and contact us