Cardiopulmonary Exercise Testing

The test allows your doctor to see how your lungs, heart and muscles react to exercise. The test is carried out on a bicycle, the machines usually used in gyms.

As you cycle we will measure how much air you breathe, how much oxygen you need and how fast and efficiently your heart beats. This test evaluates how your heart, lungs and muscles respond to exercise.

Your doctor may order this test for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Diagnosing heart, lung and circulatory diseases.
  • Assessing your readiness for surgery.
  • Developing an exercise prescription for your pulmonary rehabilitation program.


You will be asked to wear a breathing mask while you cycle or walk so that we can measure how much air you breathe.


Test Duration


Approximately 90 minutes


Test Preparation


Continue as usual with your medication, such as inhalers.

Avoid smoking for at least 8 hours and do not eat or have any drinks with caffeine for 2 hours before the test as this may affect the test results.

Try and get lots of rest on the day of the test and do not do any heavy exercise earlier on the same day.

On the day of the test, wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes and flat shoes that will not slip off your feet. This includes:

Shoes suitable for pedaling an exercise bike or walking.

Shorts or pants.

A shirt, blouse or top that buttons or zips in the front (so the respiratory therapist can apply the electrocardiogram leads to your chest and adjust them while you are exercising).

You may need to reschedule the test if you feel unwell or if you have a cold. If you feel you cannot give the best exercise effort on the day of testing, please contact the department before or on the day


Test Procedure



You will be asked to do a graded exercise test on a bicycle. The workload will begin at a level that you can easily do. The test will be advanced in stages, depending on your work ability.

At the start, electrocardiogram (ECG) leads are put on your chest to monitor your heart during the test. A device is attached to your finger to monitor your oxygen level during the test. Your blood pressure will be measured. You will be wearing a face mask to measure your breathing. You will pedal the exercise bike at a set speed.

The bike becomes harder to pedal each minute of the test. Pedal until you are tired or unable to continue. You will be asked to show how breathless you are, if you have any chest pain and how tired your legs are by pointing to a chart. You should mention if you have any chest pain, dizziness or discomfort during the test.

At the end of the test, you will continue to pedal with very low resistance for several more minutes to allow your muscles to properly cool down. If you feel unwell at any stage of the procedure, you should tell staff at once. The staff giving the test may also stop the test if you show signs of fatigue or discomfort.

All these instructions will be carefully explained to you on the day of your test. Please feel free to ask questions or tell us if you have any concerns.


After the test



  • You can eat and drink as usual.
  • You may go about your day as usual.
  • Ask us if you have any other questions.
  • We will send results to the referring consultant who will normally discuss the results with you.

Risks Involved



There are risks and complications with this investigation. The Common risks and complications (more than 5%) include: Mild angina, Shortness of breath, Musculoskeletal discomfort. The Uncommon risks and complications (less than 5%) include: Low blood pressure, Chest pain, Fainting, Abnormal heart rhythm that continues for a long time, Heart attack. Death as a result of this procedure is extremely rare.

You will be under supervision and observed by trained staff throughout the test. Emergency equipment is available for use in unusual situations if needed. The results obtained from the exercise test may assist your doctor in the diagnosis of your illness and / or evaluation of the type and level of activity most appropriate for you.