It is perhaps one of the most common questions we are asked: what exactly is the difference between a sports medical test and an exercise test? Because we understand that this can be confusing, we explain the differences here so that you know exactly which test is suitable for your specific situation.
Sports medical test
At Eelco, the sports physician of Cyclinglab, you can visit us for various tests and examinations. However, when we talk about the large/extensive sports medical examination we are talking about an examination including a sports medical test with breath gas analysis. Prior to the test, your starting situation will be determined and you will check together whether there are any complaints that are objectified by a physical examination, a heart film and a lung function test. In the first instance, this examination is about checking your health. Eelco will therefore check whether your heart, lungs and muscles work together in a good (and normal) way during exercise. A maximum effort test is done with breathing gas analysis, in which the imposed power is quickly increased. The maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max) and the heart rate zones can also be determined, but determining these values is not the main goal of the test.
Difference exercise test
This is also the most important difference with the ‘normal’ exercise test, where a lactate measurement is used to determine your heart rate and power zones. This exercise test is not taken by sports doctor Eelco, but by one of Cyclinglab’s movement scientists and is primarily aimed at training support. The test can therefore determine heart rate and power zones more accurately, but tells less about your overall health. During the exercise test, in which the imposed power is slowly increased, the power is determined at the threshold and at the point of maximum fat burning. On this basis, we can make a statement about the level of your endurance capacity and thus find out how well you are endurance-trained; very important for a cyclist to know in order to be able to train effectively afterwards.
Because the sports physician carries out the sports medical test and the exercise test is taken by one of our movement scientists, the sports medical test is often (partly) reimbursed by your health insurance company, but the exercise test is not.
So when do you opt for a large sports medical examination including a test and when is it better to come and do an exercise test?
Because the major sports medical examination is aimed at examining your health, it is recommended that athletes who experience complaints when making an effort have a major sports medical examination. In addition, for certain groups we always recommend a large sports medical examination before they (again) start training; this applies to athletes aged 35 years and older who have been inactive for a number of years, but actually also to all people over 50 who want to start exercising. If you know that you have heart or lung problems, are taking medication or have had cancer, it is always advisable to have yourself examined by a sports doctor before you start training.
Of course you don’t have to choose; you can also have a large sports medical examination first to check your health, after which you come back for an exercise test, so that you can, for example, train very specifically with a power meter. This way you can be sure that you’re not only healthy on your bike, but that you’re also training effectively for the best results.