HEALTH TESTS

6-Minute Walk Test: What is it and Why is it Done?

A 6MWT test is commonly used for people with lung and heart diseases

A walk test can determine a person’s capacity to withstand a surgery

The 6-minute walk test requires you to walk at your normal pace

B
Bajaj Finserv Health
November 23rd, 2021
4 mins read

A 6-minute walk test is a low-risk test that examines the fitness of people with specific health conditions. It is commonly used for people with pulmonary hypertension, interstitial lung disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) [1].

The purpose of a six-minute walk test is to measure the ability of a person to walk on a flat surface at a normal pace. It records how far you can walk in this time and determines your aerobic exercise capacity. Your doctor may use this test to determine and evaluate the effectiveness of treatment for heart, lungs, and other health conditions. Read on to know more about this walk test.

Additional Read: What is a CBC Test? Why are Normal CBC Values Important?

Why is a 6-minute walk test done?

This low-exertion test assesses endurance in people with different health conditions. The results of a 6-minute walk test are also used to compare changes in performance. The test evaluates the functional capacity of an individual and provides vital information about blood circulation, body metabolism, pulmonary and cardiovascular systems. Not only does the test measure general health, but it also helps monitor the efficacy of the current treatment plan.

Health professionals usually use the 6MWT test to examine individuals with heart or lung issues. They include COPD, pulmonary hypertension, lung disease, and heart ailments. Doctors may even conduct the test to determine a person’s capacity to withstand surgery. Apart from this, the six-minute walk test is used in other conditions. They are arthritis, stroke, multiple sclerosis [2], muscle disorders, spinal muscular atrophy [3], geriatrics [4], spinal cord injury, fibromyalgia [5], and Parkinson’s disease [6].

A study reported that 6MWT scores can be used by doctors to predict the severity of lung conditions [7]. Another review suggests that a 6-minute walk test gives out reliable information on the functional ability of people with heart failure [8].

How is the six-minute walk test performed?

Before the six-minute walk test:

· Make sure you wear comfortable clothes and shoes

· Do not eat a heavy meal or exercise too much within two hours of testing

· Avoid smoking or drinking

· You may take your usual medications

Your pulse, blood pressure and oxygen level will be measured before the test begins. You will receive instructions to walk between designated areas for 6 minutes at your pace.

During the walk, you may slow down or take a break while standing if necessary. You may inform the tester if you experience breathing trouble or chest pain. Keep note of the distance you cover. Once the 6MWT test is over, the tester will measure your pulse, blood pressure and oxygen level again. Your results are then compared with normal scores and further instructions are given based on them.

What does the 6MWT test score mean?

With the test score, you can see the distance you have covered in 6 minutes. For instance, if you complete 42 lengths of a 10-meter track, the calculated score is 420 m. The normal score range for adults should be between 400 and 700 m. However, the value can change based on factors like age, gender, and underlying health conditions.

A higher 6MWT test score depicts that you have better exercise tolerance. Similarly, a low score means you may have certain health issues. The test scores help doctors evaluate the effectiveness of any therapy you are following. Based on the study, specialists may change your medications or exercise program.

By checking scores of tests done at different times, they will evaluate the change based on a comparison with the minimal detectable change (MDC). MDC is the minimum difference to make sure an error is not the cause of the change. The smallest change in the treatment outcome, called minimal important difference (MID), is also taken into consideration. A MID is 30 m, although it may differ based on the test method and study population.

Additional Read: CRP Test: What is it and Why is it Important for Your Health?

Take this test if your doctor suggests it to you and maintain a healthy lifestyle for good overall health. If you have high blood pressure, low oxygen level, or have symptoms like breathlessness, seek medical help and take proper medications. You can book an online doctor consultation on Bajaj Finserv Health for the best medical care without any delay.

Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.

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