A 6 minute walk test is a measurement tool used in physical therapy to determine a person’s endurance with basic exercise and overall functional fitness. Its really simple to perform, and can help you and your physical therapist evaluate your overall functional status to get you the best rehabilitation program possible. 

Below is a great overview of how the test is done, how to prep, what you need, and how results are measured

Equipment

The equipment used to conduct the 6 Minute Walk Test:

  • At least one chair, positioned at one end of the walking course
  • A validated scale to measure dyspnea (modified breathlessness scale) and subjective fatigue
  • Sphygmomanometer for blood pressure measurement
  • Pulse oximeter
  • Stopwatch
  • Pre-measured marks along the track/corridor
  • Access to oxygen and telephone in case of an emergency
  • An emergency plan
  • Portable supplemental oxygen if required by patient to perform exercise test
  • Clipboard with reporting sheet and pen

 Before the 6 Minute Walk Test – Prep

  • Know your medical history and take precautions to make sure you do not overdo exercise testing.
  • Dress comfortably, wear appropriate footwear and avoid eating for at least one hour before the test (where possible or appropriate).
  • Any prescribed inhaled bronchodilator medication should be taken within one hour of testing or when the patient arrives for testing.
  • You should rest for at least 15 minutes before beginning the 6MWT.
  • The following will be recorded:
    • Blood pressure
    • Heart rate
    • Oxygen saturation
    • Dyspnea score*

Instructions for the 6 Minute Walk Test

Before the Test

The aim of this test is to walk as far as possible for 6 minutes. You will walk along this hallway between the markers, as many times as you can in 6 minutes.

Note as each minute passes, then at 6 minutes stop where you are.

6 minutes is a long time to walk, so you will be exerting yourself. You are permitted to slow down, to stop, and to rest as necessary, but please resume walking as soon as you are able.

Remember that the objective is to walk AS FAR AS POSSIBLE for 6 minutes, but don’t run or jog.

During the Test

The following standard encouragements are used during the test:

  • 1 min “You are doing well. You have 5 minutes to go.”
  • 2 min “Keep up the good work. You have 4 minutes to go.”
  • 3 min “You are doing well. You are halfway.”
  • 4 min “Keep up the good work. You have only 2 minutes left.”
  • 5 min “You are doing well. You have only 1 minute to go.”
  • 6 min “Please stop where you are.”

Continuous monitoring of SpO2 and HR is performed during the test and results recorded each minute. If the lowest SpO2  is observed at a different time-point then this is also recorded as it is an important prognostic indicator

 At the End of the 6 Minute Walk Test

  • A marker is put on the distance walked.
  • You can sit down if you prefer, or stand.
  • Oxygen saturation (SpO2)%, heart rate and dyspnea rating are immediately recorded
  • The excess distance walked is measured with a tape measure and the total distance walked is tallied. 

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