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6 Minute Walk Test for COPD

1 Oct 2017
| Under COPD, Medical | Posted by | 11 Comments
6-Minute Walk Test for COPD

For people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), undergoing lung function testing, such as pulmonary function tests, is a typical occurrence. Part of your treatment plan may include pulmonary rehabilitation—a program that combines exercise, education and support to help people learn to breathe and function at the highest level possible. During pulmonary rehabilitation, a 6-minute walk test is typically performed at the start of the program or to evaluate a person for lung surgery. Here’s what you need to know about the 6-minute walk test for COPD.

What is a 6-Minute Walk Test for COPD?

The 6-minute walk test measures the distance someone can walk quickly on a flat, hard surface in 6 minutes. The test reflects the person’s ability to perform daily physical activities. Because COPD affects everyone differently, lung function and exercise tolerance testing help doctors and patients work together to develop the best treatment plan.

The 6-minute walk test was developed as a valid alternative to standard treadmill-based exercise testing for people who are elderly or who cannot perform treadmill-based exercise testing. You may have another 6-minute walk test after a certain amount of time has passed to test how much you have improved, as well.

Who Needs a 6-Minute Walk Test?

One of the most important reasons to have a 6-minute walk test is to measure the response to medical intervention in a person with moderate to severe heart or lung disease, such as COPD.

Your doctor may also use a 6-minute walk test to provide valuable information about your ability to perform daily activities, to evaluate how your body responds to exercise and as a measurement of functional status.

Some people may not be candidates for the 6-minute walk test. Talk with your doctor before having a 6-minute walk test if you have any of the following:

  • Unstable angina (during the month prior to the test)
  • Heart attack (the month prior to the test)
  • Resting heart rate of more than 120 beats per minute
  • Systolic blood pressure of more than 188mm Hg
  • Diastolic blood pressure of more than 100mm Hg

You and your doctor can discuss your exercise testing, lung function testing and treatment needs in more detail and decide what procedures are right for you.

Preparing for Your 6-Minute Walk Test for COPD

6-Minute Walk Test for COPD

There are a few simple tips to help you prepare for your 6-minute walk test for COPD. On the day of your test, remember to follow your doctor’s specific instructions and to do the following:

  • Wear comfortable clothing
  • Wear comfortable shoes designed for walking, like sneakers or tennis shoes
  • Use walking aids if you normally need them, such as a cane or walker
  • Eat a light meal before early morning or afternoon tests
  • Avoid vigorous exercise within 2 hours prior to the test

Your 6-minute walk test technician will explain what will happen during the test, what you need to do and how to report your symptoms. Tell your technician immediately if you begin to experience chest pain, intolerable shortness of breath (dyspnea), leg cramps, staggering or excessive sweating. If your technician notices you have become pale or ashen in appearance, the technician should stop the test at once.

Helpful Tips for Your 6-Minute Walk Test for COPD

To make your 6-minute walk test experience easier, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

  • You are permitted to slow down, stop and rest as needed.
  • You may lean against a wall when resting, but you must remain standing.
  • If you do stop to rest, remember that the timer will not stop when you do. You need to start walking again as soon as you’re ready.
  • Your technician will watch carefully as you walk and announce your elapsed time every minute.
  • You can bring up questions or concerns with your technician at any time.

6-Minute Walk Test for COPD Test Results

Most 6-minute walk tests are performed twice. Your first test occurs prior to receiving therapeutic interventions, and the second afterward. Performing the test twice helps your doctor determine if you have experienced significant improvement in functional status, such as in your ability to perform daily tasks.

One of the goals of receiving medical treatment for COPD is to be able to walk farther during the second test. In fact, there are studies showing that people who underwent exercise, diaphragmatic strength training and other medical treatments actually increased the distance they walked during the second test. While the 6-minute walk test is a useful tool, the test should only be performed under medical supervision at a medical facility.

What’s Next?

6-Minute Walk Test for COPD

Along with lung function testing and exercise testing, such as the 6-minute walk test for COPD, you and your doctor will work together to develop the best COPD treatment plan for you. This plan could include medications, inhalers, supplements, oxygen therapy, exercise, diet and alternative therapies, like cellular therapy.

Cellular therapy works to promote healing from within the lungs. In fact, many people with COPD, who had trouble performing daily tasks, found that they improved after receiving cellular therapy. Now, these patients are able to climb a flight of stairs, cook a meal, do household chores and even exercise with more ease.

If you or a loved one has COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis or another chronic lung disease, contact us at (800) 729-3065 to learn more cellular therapy and what treatment could mean for you.


  1. Lung Institute

    6 months ago


    Thank you for your comment. You don’t know how much we appreciate unsolicited testimonials like yours. We are so happy to hear your success story and we are so glad we could make it happen.


    The Lung Institute

  2. Rick Zambrzycki

    6 months ago

    i HAD my initial treatment in March 2016, and had a booster in aug 2017. Prior to my my treatments i was pretty much on oxygen 24/7 and could not shower normally. i would have to stop midway through to get on my oxygen. I couldn’t walk to the mailbox without becoming breathless.

    I’m off oxygen COMPLETELY. I joined a fitness club last month. i started slowly and now i’m able to walk 22 minutes on a treadmill, and use the exercise equipment 4-5 times a week. I’ll be 71 years old this month and i’m doing things that i thought were gone for good.
    I even take 10-20 minute walks with my dog in addition to my fitness routine.

  3. Pingback: Lung Institute

  4. Phoebe

    10 months ago

    Hi Rhoda,

    Having or not having supplemental insurance in addition to Medicare is an important decision. We recommend talking with your doctor about what he or she recommends for you. You can also talk with a Medicare advisor about what they recommend. We wish you the best.

    Kind Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  5. Rhoda

    11 months ago

    Do you really need supplement ins if you have medicare.I’m paying 641.00 for ins and will get medicare in august

  6. Phoebe

    12 months ago

    Hi Bradley,

    While some people may see rapid improvement after treatment, other people may see gradual improvement over time. Typically, people tend to notice more improvement between three and six months after treatment, but this may vary as well. Feel free to contact your patient coordinator or give us a call at (855) 313-1149 if you have any questions or concerns. We’re happy to help.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  7. Bradley Wayne Moss

    12 months ago

    I don’t see alot of improvement so far & its been 2 monts.

  8. PB

    1 year ago

    Dear Clifford,

    Thanks for your question. Unfortunately, at this time, insurance companies and Medicare don’t cover treatment. However, we’re hopeful that treatment will be covered by insurance companies and Medicare in the near future. Keep in mind that it will take some time before the insurance companies see a financial benefit in their favor and then decide to cover it. Treatment cost varies depending on treatment type, so it’s best to speak one-on-one with one of our patient coordinators to learn more about which treatment options might be best for you. Our patient coordinators have a wealth of knowledge about cellular therapy, treatment, candidacy and cost, and we’re happy to answer your questions. So, feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149, and we look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Kind Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  9. clifford hoff

    2 years ago

    h ow about the cost of the procedure/ Does medicare help at all?

  10. PB

    2 years ago


    Thanks for your comment. It’s important to talk with your doctor about exercise testing and whether you need to have it done. Because your doctor knows you and your health situation well, he or she will be able to best guide you. We wish you the best.

    Kind Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  11. Name

    2 years ago

    Guess I need a 6 minute test. How many steps should it consist of@6’1″230lbs. I’ll check out after debate

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