What Is the Six-Minute Walk Test?


The six-minute walk test is used to monitor patients with chronic lung diseases such as pulmonary hypertension (PH). It’s often part of the screening and diagnosis process and patients with the condition may have to regularly undergo the test to monitor the disease’s progression.

MORE: Seven interesting facts about pulmonary hypertension.

According to Pulmonary Hypertension Network Australia, the six-minute walking test is usually performed at the cardiologist’s or pulmonologist’s office and involves the patient walking up and down a long marked passageway for six minutes. The doctor will see how far the patient can walk up and down the passageway in six minutes.

The patient will have their vitals taken before and after the test so that doctors can make comparisons to determine the patient’s tolerance for exercise. The patient will also wear a pulse oximeter while performing the test so that doctors can monitor their pulse and oxygen saturation.

The patients can stop at any time during the six minutes, but the clock will continue to run. Patients may use oxygen if they need it along with assistive equipment such as a walking frame or canes.

MORE: The influence of climate on pulmonary hypertension

Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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  1. Andrea Rice says:

    Just had the test done few weeks ago. Had several breathing tests done first b/4 walked down marked hallway. I asked what is my lung function and found it is 29% and my oxygen level is 40%, however after given oxygen and walked my oxygen level reached into the high 90’s. The test was given to me by a respiratory therapist that works for my lung doctor.

    I’ve always had issues with shortness of breath b/4 being diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension. I was always told I had asthma and allergic to everything that grows where I live, however I find this to be untrue and many allergists used to seeing don’t take the extra step to find out if what I really had was allergies or something worse. Allergists are over prescribing inhalers to many patients many of them that don’t need them.

    I was asked where I’ve been all these years when I first met the lung doctor and my reply was: “Out and about living my life.” Didn’t even know what a lung doctor at that time was called. Every single breathing test had done at the allergist office failed showing little improvement. It never dawned on me to seek out another doctor. It wasn’t until I was hospitalized with severe chest pains that I realized what was in front of me. I knew about blood pressure when taken with a cuff on a person’s arm but wasn’t aware that blood pressure can also affect the lungs. Having a history of blood clots found out the pressure in my lungs was so high the doctors including interns were shocked I didn’t have a stroke. Instead, my heart became enlarged as a result.

    I became mad at the medical field because I wasn’t aware or never heard of this fatal chronic illness. I wondered how I can see a lung doctor. Can I walk in off the street and make an appointment at the front desk of a lung doctor’s office? Or do I need a referral? How easy is the access? Perhaps the medical field should consider hosting health fairs around all states within the United States. Get the word out to the general public and work together to deal with this serious illness. I’ll bet you there are so many others suffering from this illness and don’t know it. There are options for treatment if only some of them knew where to go. They are probably just like me what does a pulmonologist do? Where do I go to find one? Thanks 4 listening. Other experiences interested to read, so please send.

    • Tim Bossie says:

      You are so very right Andrea. There are so many people today who do not understand the medical process and end up not getting the right treatment or go their entire lives with unnecessary pain and complications. While there is some work going on right now in raising awareness, there does need to be a major push in “health fairs” or education for getting the best healthcare you can.

    • Margaret Phelps says:

      I also for most of my life thought( I am 76-Aug 10) and was treated for asthma, my Parents would call the Doctor and he would come with his little black bag and needle which I hated to see We lived in Chicago at that I was 67 years when I got the diagnoeis of Pulmonary Hypertension it was a shock but I have the most wonderful caring team of Doctors and Nurses makes it a lot easier until Ph says I am still here.


      • Andrea Rice says:

        76 and your still kicking? How awesome! When I was first told about this illness the average person doesn’t live past 20 years, so in my brain I’m thinking I have 3 years left 2 live. I, 2 am from Chicago and don’t miss it all that much except the winters cold! Never had asthma, used inhalers, shortness of breath until I moved as an adult 2 the southern states, different climate hot and humid and was told allergic 2 everything so started on the Claritin, Benadryl and then was told I have asthma so then came the inhalers and the breathing tests that I never passed not once came. I figured it was the climate that was contributing to issues with energy, shortness of breath. I was hospitalized because of chest pains and wondered why I was on the cardiac floor. It wasn’t until I met my first cardiologist that said he doesn’t think I ever had asthma. Imagine my shock! When I meet people they tell me I’m young 55 but I don’t feel young. I feel old and when I look in the mirror I look it 2. My situation is so severe because I have high blood pressure in my lungs so much so the doctors were surprised I didn’t have a stroke. Instead, my heart became enlarged. I never knew about high blood pressure in the lungs. I have a family history of blood clots so was told this is the link to connecting the dots. I had my first cath done sorry can’t spell those medical words, and I felt great, had energy 2 walk further than 3 feet then stop and rest, then repeat the process all over again. I was told it would last temporarily which it did but did enjoy the bursts of energy had at that time. Then I went in for my 2nd cath using nitrogen oxide (didn’t work) and then the 6 minute breathing test. 4 me it’s getting better and better, had oxygen during the tests and scored in the high 90’s and when I walked down the path at the hospital I could walk so far so much further than 3 feet, gotta slow down walk 2 fast, old habits die hard, in Chicago when I lived there everything I did was fast, walk, drive, work fast, so now gotta pay attention 2 slowing down. I felt like I had an out of body experience, is this really me walking here? Couldn’t believe it. So, yes gonna continue 2 become proactive with this illness and thank you so much 4 your comments, if you are alive and kicking it at 76 hopefully there’s hope 4 me, hopefully. If not, and I pass away no hard feelings death is not the end of life.

      • Andrea Rice says:

        Hello Margaret, not on oxygen yet but have been told that a person will have more energy with oxygen. I read many stories from folks (young folks in their 20’s) surprised but started reading about this chronic illness and many young people including kids get this illness. Anyway, this 20 year old talked about being embarrassed when out and about, kids approach and ask her questions about the oxygen and I believe it’s because there’s a stereotype that only ‘old’ people use it. I can identify with this 20 year old especially if you don’t know how 2 answer. I’m a teacher so I would welcome anyone to approach me and ask questions. This is how people learn and there aren’t any stupid questions except the ones that are never asked. I also believe all of us that have this chronic illness need 2 stand firm and make the general public aware this exists. I didn’t know this illness existed. How would I have known? Read those boring medical journals? I don’t have access to this information. I don’t feel completely stupid I know what a cardiologist is because my grandma saw 1, but I didn’t know what a pulmonologist is until I met 1 and asked a whole bunch of questions. The more contact with other people the more this chronic illness will be known. No one should be embarrassed. I want to be on oxygen and have more energy than I do 2 do things. Currently, I don’t have enough energy 2 do anything outside of my home. I don’t feel safe alone so I want a caregiver to go with me. The cost is $20/hr. I’m not complaining if this is what I have 2 pay 2 go anywhere. I prefer 2 drive myself but then would have 2 pay mileage costs. It’s always something. I can’t have anyone ride with me or me ride with anyone and this comes from trauma. I just can’t be responsible 4 another person’s life. The risk is 2 high. So, the mileage costs will have 2 be figured in. Have no family where I live, leaves me little options. My adult son recently moved out. Still waiting 4 disability 2 arrive. Prefer to hire a professional instead of a neighbor in case something goes wrong the professional has the training to know what to do.
        Anyone out there with little 2 no energy, how do you cope?

        • Joyce Sandberg says:

          I am 75 and was diagnosed with CTEPH last Feb. SOB is a real problem for me as well. Energy levels fall; however, oxygen 24/7 does definitely help. I take my small cannister, get into my car with my oxymeter around my neck to check on oxygen levels and make the needed adjustments on my tank and keep on truckin.
          I mainly get an electric cart to shop with. Sometimes I sit in my car and wait til a clerk collecting shopping carts is seen, I request he or she bring me an electric cart and that helps me save energy and use less oxygen. There is always an extra tank in my car, if needed.
          When I travel with my husband I utilize my portable oxygen (Sequal 5), too heavy for me when alone. It plugs into the car and charges while driving. I see a pulmonologist (2 hours from my house, at cleveland clinic). We stay overnite at a nearby hotel and use the sequal 5 for travel and sleeping. I also have an electric cart that my husband puts together for me when we visit my Dr.
          I cannot put it together myself when I am alone. That is why I rely upon the clerks at stores to aid me.
          I just started on pulmonary rehab twice a week. It is questionable as to me improving. I was told that taking the Adempas and trying to remain somewhat active will keep me stable (that is considered to be improvement in my case) I use an albuterol inhaler before exercise only. Tudsoora Pressair 2 xs a day for my Copd. Adempas 2.5 3 xs a day.
          and Eliquis 2 xs a day.
          My concern is the future cost of Adempas (this year has been no charge); I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. STAY POSITIVE!!! It is the best way of coping with this unexpected disease.

          • Andrea Rice says:

            Thank you. I read being strong-willed helps 2 which I am. I have seen those electric carts at the stores many times it never dawned on me 2 use 1. My biggest hardship now is waiting 2 get on oxygen and without it I struggle 2 walk. I can walk about 3 or more feet, then have 2 stop, rest and repeat the process. Walking like this makes me feel so old and yet I’m not old according to what my doctor’s tell me, 55 is young. Stopped shopping at large stores Walmart, Hobby Lobby Lobby & Michael’s are out of reach 4 now. I order online and can manage at smaller stores Aldi. I also read that one can become disabled without warning. Since your 20 years older than me this gives me hope that if you can manage with some help, so can I. My 25 year old adult son is there 4 me. He worries about me but doesn’t see how old I feel. Maybe I’ll check out that electric cart at the grocery store next time I decide 2 go in person. Thanks 4 your comment.

  2. delores potter says:

    I’m not sure how the 6 minute walk test works for everyone else, but my only symptom so far is being tired. I could walk the length of Walmart 5 times over, and be fine, and yet I know I’m sick. I’m pretty sure this is all going to change in time. I’ve noticed some blurring of my eye sight, which I think pulmonary hypertension is causing. Mine isn’t slight….it measures 90. I have to do better with keeping my C-pap on. Sometimes I take it off during the night and I don’t even know it. Good Luck to all of you.

    • Margaret Phelps says:

      Hi Delores Walk test does nothing for me either I am so miserable when I am finished, I am on oxygen 24/7 and it is a pain too, but what can you do, when you must have it ? Good Luck to you all too.

  3. Newly diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension.When I went for my appt.they did lung function,and heart cath and was going to do 6 minute walk test and then decided not to.but now after researching I wonder why doctor decided not to do one??

    • Jen Cueva says:

      Hi Regina,
      I’m one of the columnist for PH and one of the forum moderators. We would love to have you join us and find support from other PH patients. I’m sharing the link that you can easily create an account and start communications./

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