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What is a 6 Minute Walk Test and why is it done?

A 6 Minute Walk Test is performed on a flat surface and measures the distance that you can walk in 6 minutes.  6 Minute Walk Tests may be performed to gather information on a person’s ability to perform activities of daily living, to evaluate the response of bodily systems to exercise, especially the heart and lungs, measure the response to medical intervention in a person with heart and/or lung disease or as a one-time measurement of an individual’s functional status.

At Tucson Pulmonology, our 6 Minute Walk Tests are performed by a certified Respiratory Therapist.  The test takes approximately 30 minutes to complete and although there are some risks associated with the test, our staff is highly trained to help patients throughout the test.

How does one prepare for a 6 Minute Walk Test and what can they expect?

Preparing for a 6 Minute Walk Test is easy… wear comfortable walking shoes and loose fitting clothing.  Make sure you have any of your usual walking aids such as a cane, walker or oxygen.  Take your medications, unless otherwise instructed.  Eat a light meal, avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine for at least 6 hours before the test and heavy exercise for at least 2 hours before.

During the 6 Minute Walk Test, you will be with your Respiratory Therapist who will give you clear instructions.  You will walk at your regular pace and perform “laps” in a designated area.  Your Respiratory Therapist will keep track of how many laps you can do in 6 minutes.  If you need a break, you can stop, and resume walking as soon as you can.  The test may be stopped if you start to feel any discomfort or need to for any reason.