How to carry out a field walking test in chronic respiratory disease

Anne E. Holland, Martijn A. Spruit, Sally J. Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleOtherpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


The European Respiratory Society (ERS) and American Thoracic Society (ATS) have recently published a Technical Standard which documents the standard operating procedures for the 6-min walk test (6MWT), incremental shuttle walk test (ISWT) and endurance shuttle walk test (ESWT). The Technical Standard shows that all three tests are valid and reliable measures of functional exercise capacity in people with chronic respiratory disease and makes recommendations for standardising their performance. Key findings and recommendations of the Technical Standard include: ● The 6MWT, ISWT and ESWT are strenuous tests which elicit cardiorespiratory responses that are similar to those observed during a maximal incremental exercise test. As a result, the contraindications and precautions for field walking tests should be consistent with those used for a laboratory-based incremental exercise test. ● There is strong evidence of a learning effect for the 6MWT and ISWT. Two tests should be performed when the 6MWT or ISWT are used to measure change over time. ● The 6MWT, ISWT and ESWT are responsive to treatment effects in people with chronic respiratory disease, particularly for rehabilitation. ● The 6MWT is very sensitive to variations in methodology, including use of encouragement, provision of supplemental oxygen, changes in track layout and length, and use of wheeled walkers. These factors should be documented and held constant on repeat testing. ● The lowest SpO2 recorded during a 6MWT is an important marker of disease severity and prognosis. Continuous pulse oximetry is recommended during the 6MWT, to ensure that the lowest SpO2 is recorded. ● In adults with chronic respiratory disease, a change in 6-min walk distance of 30 m or more indicates a clinically significant change has occurred.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-139
Number of pages11
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes

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