The 6-minute walk as an appropriate exercise test in elderly patients with chronic heart failure

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 1996 Jul;51(4):M147-51. doi: 10.1093/gerona/51a.4.m147.


Background: The value of the 6-minute walk in a population of elderly patients with chronic heart failure (CHF) has not yet been established, as it has been in a younger population.

Methods: In a prospective trial, 2 exercise tests were compared: the 6-minute walk (6 MW) and a treadmill test with progressive increments in workload. 37 patients (mean age 81.3, SD 5.6 years): 11 untrained controls, 16 patients with New York Heart Association (NYHA) class II and 10 patients with NYHA class III participated. The main outcome measures were the distance walked in 6 minutes, the symptomatic VO2max in the progressive treadmill test and the degree of CHF as scored by the NYHA classification and the Boston Study Group (BSG) score.

Results: For both the 6 MW and the treadmill test there was a significant difference in distance between NYHA class II and III patients (p < .001), between the controls and NYHA class III patients (p < .001), but not between the controls and NYHA class II patients. The distance walked in the 6 MW was well correlated with the distance walked in the treadmill test (p < .001). Eight participants (22%), however, were unable to perform this treadmill test and 6 participants (17%) covered very low distances compared to the 6 MW. The VO2max was lower in NYHA class III than in class II patients (p = .032). NYHA classification and BSG score correlated reasonably well.

Conclusion: A treadmill exercise test with VO2max measurement in elderly patients with CHF is difficult to accomplish. On the contrary, the 6 MW gives a good impression of the remaining exercise capacity. It is well correlated with the treadmill test. The 6 MW is well tolerated by elderly patients and differentiates between NYHA classes II and III. Untrained controls could not be differentiated from NYHA class II patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Pressure
  • Echocardiography
  • Exercise Test / methods*
  • Exercise Tolerance
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology*
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pulmonary Gas Exchange
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Stroke Volume
  • Time Factors
  • Ventricular Function, Left
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Work