A six-minute walk test is usually performed at the start of a pulmonary rehabilitation program or to evaluate a person for lung surgery, and is often part of a standard treatment plan for those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This exercise test measures the distance you can walk quickly on a flat, hard surface in six minutes and reflects your ability to perform daily physical activities.
One of the most significant reasons to conduct a six-minute walk test is to measure the response to medical intervention in a patient with moderate to severe heart or lung disease.
Because some, especially the elderly, may be unable to perform the standard treadmill-based exercise test used to evaluate exercise capacity, the six-minute walk test was developed as a valid alternative.
Clinicians may also use a six-minute walk test in the following circumstances:
As a one-time measurement of functional status
To provide information about a person's ability to perform activities of daily living
To evaluate the response of bodily systems to exercise including the heart, lungs, blood, and circulation
To determine the physical capability of a person with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and help plan appropriate clinical treatment
On the day of the test, be sure to dress in comfortable clothing, being especially sure to wear shoes that are designed for walking. You may use walking aids if you normally need them, such as a cane or walker.
Eat a light meal before early morning or afternoon tests, but avoid vigorous exercise within two hours of the test.
The walking test will likely take place within or around a medical facility, such as a doctor's office or hospital.
During the six-minute walk test, you will be permitted to slow down, stop, and rest as needed. You can lean against the wall when you're resting but should remain standing.
If you do stop to rest, keep in mind the timer will not stop when you do, and you should start up again as soon as you are ready. Your technician will be watching you carefully, periodically reporting how many minutes have elapsed.
Advise your technician of any concerns, both before and during the test. If you begin experiencing any of the following, let your technician know they should stop the test: