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Exercise tests

What is an exercise test?

An exercise test gives us information on whether your lungs and heart are working as well as they should be when you are doing physical activity such as football, running or PE.

There are three different types of exercise tests that the department perform:

  • incremental
  • bronchoprovocation
  • cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET)

Incremental and bronchoprovocation exercise tests

Both of these exercise tests are performed on a treadmill like the one in the picture below.

Before the test starts we will place electrode stickers on your chest so that we can measure your heart rate and a probe on your finger so we can measure your oxygen levels.

You will start off walking on the treadmill and then build up to a fast hill-walking or running. We will be monitoring you at all times and slow down or stop the treadmill if it is too difficult for you to keep up.

For the bronchoprovocation test we will ask you to perform a blowing test (spirometry) before and after the exercise test to see if any changes have happened in your airways. You may have already performed spirometry when you came to your clinic appointment. None of this hurts and you can stop the treadmill at any point.

Photograph of treadmill


CPET is performed on a static bike like the one in the picture below. The test will tell us how well your lungs, heart and muscles are working, both together and independently during your best exercising effort. Before the test starts we will place some equipment on you so we can monitor you during the exercise. This includes:

  • a mask covering your nose and mouth so we can measure your breathing, just like the one in the photo below
  • electrode stickers on your chest so that we can measure your heart rate
  • a probe on your finger and a clip on your ear so we can measure your oxygen levels
  • an inflatable cuff on your arm so we can measure your blood pressure before and during the test

The test involves a short period of cycling with that starts easy, but then becomes harder gradually until you reach a top limit. You will be in control of how much exercise you do and you can stop at any point.

Photograph of stationary exercise bike Photograph of blue respiratory mask

Do I need to bring anything with me?

You will need to bring comfortable clothes to run in such as a t-shirt, shorts or joggers and trainers. You will get hot and sweaty so it may be a good idea to bring a change of clothes.

Do I need to do anything before the appointment?

Your appointment letter will tell you if you need to stop any of your inhalers before the test and for how long.

How long does it take?

  • Incremental exercise and bronchoprovocation appointments will last approximately 1 hour but you will be on the treadmill for around 10 minutes.
  • CPET appointments last approximately 1.5 hours but you will be on the bike for 10 to 15 minutes.

Contact us

Please contact us on 0114 271 7369  if you need to change your appointment or if you have any other questions.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: RSP14

Resource Type: Article

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S10 2TH

United Kingdom

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