There are four general categories of exercise stress tests: single stage, multistage, ministress and maximal stress tests.
- Single stage tests consist of repeating a single activity such as stepping up and down a two-step staircase. They are the least demanding and rarely performed.
- A multistage test increases the intensity of exercise at intervals. Every few minutes, both the angle and speed on the treadmill increase, forcing the heart to work harder.
- Ministress tests are used for people recovering from a heart attack to see if it is safe to begin a walking program. Exercise is stopped after the person reaches a predetermined heart rate or develops symptoms.
- Maximal stress tests allow a person to exercise until either exhaustion or symptoms occur.
In an exercise stress test, the doctor will have the patient attempt to achieve their target heart rate.