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What is the 6-minute walk test?

The 6-minute walk test (6MWT) is a submaximal cardiorespiratory exercise test. It consists of measuring the maximum distance walked by a person on a flat surface in 6 minutes.

What is it for?

It allows to measure the tolerance to effort and to assess if there is any degree of limitation. The test is useful in patient follow-ups and enables assessing response to the prescribed medical treatment.  

How is it done?

Two cones are placed 30 metres apart in a corridor and the patient must walk for six minutes at a rapid pace to enable them to cover the maximum metres possible in this time. The member of the health staff that carries out the test records the feeling of dyspnoea (breathlessness), blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, and metres walked.

How should the patient prepare?

In order to perform the test, the patient must have a light breakfast and take their usual medication. They must come in comfortable clothes and footwear, suitable for them to carry out physical activity. Intense exercise must not be performed two hours prior to the test. The patients can use their usual walking aids for the test (walking-stick, crutch, walker, etc.).

Special care situations

If the patient has to do the test with oxygen, a second person will walk along with the patient to carry the oxygen trolley.

Who will carry out the test?

The test will be carried out by nursing staff, technicians, or physiotherapists familiarised with the test and previously trained for this.

Who interprets the results?

The personnel who carry out the test are responsible for preparing the corresponding report. That is then assessed by the pulmonologist.

What sensations might there be during the test?

There may be fatigue, cough, and a slight sensation of breathlessness. The patient is accompanied by health staff during the whole process.

Substantiated information by:

Jorge Moisés Lafuente
Xavier Alsina Restoy
Yolanda Torralba Garcia

Published: 23 May 2019
Updated: 23 May 2019

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