6-Minute Walk Test

Last Updated 05/06/2020

Authors:Ellen Becker, PhD, RRT, RPFT, AE-C, FAARC; Sai Praveen Haranath, MBBS, MPH, FCCP; Mary Hart, RRT, MS,

About the 6-minute walk test

The 6-minute walk test is a measure of fitness and how your body functions. It helps your health care provider evaluate your ability to exercise. During this test, you walk at your normal pace for 6 minutes.

This test can help monitor your response to treatments for heart, lung, and other health problems. This test is commonly used for people with pulmonary hypertension, interstitial lung disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or to evaluate people before lung transplantation.

The results of this test may lead your provider to do more tests. They may also test your heart and lung function.

What to expect

Preparing for your test:

  • Wear clothes and shoes that are comfortable.
  • It’s OK to eat a light meal prior to your test.
  • Take your usual medications.
  • Do not exercise within 2 hours of testing.

During the test:

  • The person conducting the test will measure your blood pressure, pulse, and oxygen level before you start to walk.
  • You can use your usual walking aids, such as a cane or walker, if needed.
  • If you typically use oxygen while walking, you can use it during your test.
  • You will be given the following instructions:
  • The purpose of the test is to walk as far as possible within 6 minutes. You will walk at your normal pace to a chair or cone and turn around. You continue to walk back and forth for 6 minutes.
  • Let the testing staff know if you are having chest pain or breathing difficulty.
  • You can slow down, rest, or stop at any time during the test. After every minute, the tester will tell you how much time remains.

Safety:

  • The tester will watch you for any difficulty breathing or chest pain.
  • Oxygen and other supplies will be nearby if you need them.

Understanding the results

The results of your test are compared with what results typical for healthy people at your weight, height, sex, and age. The test results can help estimate how well you’re responding to treatment. Often, your provider will ask you to repeat the 6-minute walk test after 6 months or a year.

Your provider may change your medication or exercise program based on your test results.

What are the risks?

This is a low-risk medical evaluation. Medical help is available during the test.