The six-minute walk test

Respir Care. 2003 Aug;48(8):783-5.


The American Thoracic Society has issued guidelines for the 6-minute walk test (6MWT). The 6MWT is safer, easier to administer, better tolerated, and better reflects activities of daily living than other walk tests (such as the shuttle walk test). The primary measurement is 6-min walk distance (6MWD), but during the 6MWT data can also be collected about the patient's blood oxygen saturation and perception of dyspnea during exertion. When conducting the 6MWT do not walk with the patient and do not assist the patient in carrying or pulling his or her supplemental oxygen. The patient should walk alone, not with other patients. Do not use a treadmill on which the patient adjusts the speed and/or the slope. Do not use an oval or circular track. Use standardized phrases while speaking to the patient, because your encouragement and enthusiasm can make a difference of up to 30% in the 6MWD. Count the laps with a lap counter. If the 6MWD is low, thoroughly search for the cause(s) of the impairment. Better 6MWD reference equations will be published in the future, so be sure you are using the best available reference equations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise Test / standards*
  • Humans
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care / standards
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Respiration Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Respiration Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Walking / physiology*