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Six Minute Walk Test

Patient information A-Z

A tablet and a pulse oximeter
Tablet and a pulse oximeter which measures oxygen levels in the blood and heart rate

What is a six minute walk test?

This test is designed to assess your functional exercise performance in order to reflect your daily activities whilst measuring the response of your heart and lungs during six minutes of self-paced walking.

What does a six minute walk involve?

Prior to beginning the test you will be fitted with a wrist monitor and a probe placed on your index finger, forehead or earlobe. This monitor will measure both your heart rate and blood oxygen level during the test.

The six minute walk test is entirely self-paced and you will be asked to walk between two cones set 20 metres apart with one complete lap equalling 40 metres. The aim is to complete as many laps as possible within the six minutes.

During the test you will be asked to describe how breathless you feel according to the Borg scale (between 0 to10) with regular measurements of your heart rate and blood oxygen level being taken.

Chairs are placed along the corridor to allow you to rest if needed and the test can also be conducted with supplemental oxygen if usually required when walking.


Please take all medication including inhalers as normal (unless otherwise stated in your appointment letter).

  • Please wear appropriate clothing, that is exercise attire.
  • If you have any issues other than shortness of breath that may affect your ability to walk for six minutes please call the lung function department to seek advice.
  • Please refrain from wearing nail varnish.
  • Please bring any required walking aids such as walking sticks or walking frame.
  • The test can last approximately 10-20 minutes.

If you cannot attend your appointment

If you need to rearrange your appointment, or no longer need an appointment, please call the Lung function department appointment number on 01223 217065 at the earliest opportunity. The ability to reallocate appointments helps us to reduce waiting times.

What if I am unwell prior to the appointment?

Please contact the department using the phone number stated if you have had a recent chest infection, are currently on a course of antibiotics or have just finished a course of antibiotics for your chest. As a result, it may not be appropriate to perform the test at this time and your appointment may be rescheduled.

If you are unwell please inform the department at the earliest opportunity. However, if you are unwell on the day of the appointment please still call and let us know as this will allow us to rearrange your appointment for a more suitable time.

Who will be present at my appointment?

CUH Addenbrooke’s NHS Trust is a teaching hospital so there may be occasions when a student or staff members accompany your physiologist. However, we will always seek your permission first.

Test results

After your appointment your test results will be sent to your referring consultant, who will then contact you to discuss the results and the next steps in your treatment.


You will be asked for consent to perform tests during your appointment. You will also have an opportunity to ask questions before you give consent. In the unlikely event there are risks related to the test, these will be discussed with you before the test starts.


Due to the nature of the tests and the exertion required, some patients may feel dizzy or faint during testing. Serious complications are rare and risks will be kept to a minimum by your physiologist.

Contacts / further information

If you are unsure about any of the information provided in this leaflet or have any other questions then please do not hesitate to contact the lung function department at Addenbrooke’s Hospital on 01223 217065 or alternatively by contacting clinic 2A on 01223 216645.

Our opening hours are Monday-Friday from 08:30 to 16:30.

We are smoke-free

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

Other formats

Help accessing this information in other formats is available. To find out more about the services we provide, please visit our patient information help page (see link below) or telephone 01223 256998.

Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151