Children's Hospital Colorado

Exercise Testing

We are one of the largest programs in the country treating patients with heart problems from before birth through adulthood, with exceptional outcomes.

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Exercise testing is an important evaluation to understand the cardiopulmonary limitations of children with congenital or acquired heart or lung disease. The laboratory is also used for the testing of young athletes who may have problems during exercise to better understand any cardiac or pulmonary conditions they might have. Other tests that cardiologists perform occur when the patient is still, or at rest, while exercise testing can help predict how a child will respond to the demands of exercise.

Exercise testing can be used to evaluate:

  • Effects of surgery, catheterization or other treatments on your child’s heart function
  • Capacity of the heart and lungs
  • Symptoms your child might have during exercise, such as chest pain, fainting or asthma

Patients who do exercise testing

A variety of different patients might be required to do an exercise test by their physician. The conditions they might have can include:

What to expect from an exercise test

Your child should wear exercise-style clothes and sneakers to the test. They should not eat for 1-2 hours prior to the test. Any medications can be given on their usual schedule unless you have been instructed otherwise. Your child will be monitored for blood pressure, electrocardiogram (stickers and wires), oxygen levels, symptoms, and breathing before, during, and after the exercise by a technician. Your child will exercise on either a stationary bicycle or treadmill for a short amount of time.

What is measured during an exercise test?

  • Metabolic gas exchange - measurement of O2 consumption and CO2 production
  • Pulmonary function - measurement of lung function
  • Pulse oximetry - measurement of amount of oxygen carried in blood circulation
  • Electrocardiography - measurement of heart rate and rhythm
  • Blood pressure
  • Rate of perceived exertion - measurement of subjective exercise intensity
  • Workload resistance - measurement of power and work capacity