Objective: To perform a qualitative systematic overview of the measurement properties of the most commonly utilized walk tests in the cardiorespiratory domain: the 2-min walk test (2MWT), 6-min walk test (6MWT), 12-min walk test (12MWT), self-paced walk test (SPWT), and shuttle walk test (SWT).
Data sources: MEDLINE (1966 to January 2000) and CINAHL (1982 to December 1999) electronic databases were searched. Bibliographies of the retrieved articles were reviewed.
Study selection: Clinical trials and observational studies were included if they reported data on the validity, reliability, interpretability, or responsiveness of the 2MWT, 6MWT, 12MWT, SPWT, or SWT. Only studies conducted on patients with cardiac and/or respiratory involvement were included.
Results: Fifty-two studies examining measurement properties of the various walk tests were found: 5 studies on the 2MWT, 29 studies on the 6MWT, 13 studies on the 12MWT, 6 studies on the SPWT, and 4 studies on the SWT. Measurement properties were most strongly demonstrated for the 6MWT. Correlations of 6MWT distance and maximal oxygen consumption ranged from 0.51 to 0.90. A change in distance walked of at least 54 m was found to be clinically significant for the 6MWT. Reliability was shown to be optimized when the administration of walk tests was standardized and at least two practice walks were performed. Patients with increased likelihood of postoperative complications, hospitalization, and death were identified by analysis of distance walked.
Conclusions: Measurement properties of the 6MWT have been the most extensively researched and established. In addition, the 6MWT is easy to administer, better tolerated, and more reflective of activities of daily living than the other walk tests. Therefore, the 6MWT is currently the test of choice when using a functional walk test for clinical or research purposes.