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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The six minute walk test accurately estimates mean peak oxygen uptake

Robert M Ross1*, Jayasimha N Murthy2, Istvan D Wollak3 and Andrew S Jackson4

Author Affiliations

1 Baylor College of Medicine, 3333 Richmond Ave, 2nd Floor, Houston, Texas 77098, USA

2 Division of Pulmonary Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Texas, USA

3 Memphis Lung Physicians, 6025 Walnut Grove, Memphis, TN 38120, USA

4 Department of Health and Human Performance, University of Houston, Houston, Texas, Adjunct Professor of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA

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BMC Pulmonary Medicine 2010, 10:31  doi:10.1186/1471-2466-10-31

Published: 26 May 2010



Both Peak Oxygen Uptake (peak VO2), from cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) and the distance walked during a Six-Minute Walk Test (6 MWD) are used for following the natural history of various diseases, timing of procedures such as transplantation and for assessing the response to therapeutic interventions. However, their relationship has not been clearly defined.


We determined the ability of 6 MWD to predict peak VO2 using data points from 1,083 patients with diverse cardiopulmonary disorders. The patient data came from a study we performed and 10 separate studies where we were able to electronically convert published scattergrams to bivariate points. Using Linear Mixed Model analysis (LMM), we determined what effect factors such as disease entity and different inter-site testing protocols contributed to the magnitude of the standard error of estimate (SEE).


The LMM analysis found that only 0.16 ml/kg/min or about 4% of the SEE was due to all of the inter-site testing differences. The major source of error is the inherent variability related to the two tests. Therefore, we were able to create a generalized equation that can be used to predict peak VO2 among patients with different diseases, who have undergone various exercise protocols, with minimal loss of accuracy. Although 6 MWD and peak VO2 are significantly correlated, the SEE is unacceptably large for clinical usefulness in an individual patient. For the data as a whole it is 3.82 ml/kg/min or 26.7% of mean peak VO2. Conversely, the SEE for predicting the mean peak VO2 from mean 6 MWD for the 11 study groups is only 1.1 ml/kg/min.


A generalized equation can be used to predict peak VO2 from 6 MWD. Unfortunately, like other prediction equations, it is of limited usefulness for individual patients. However, the generalized equation can be used to accurately estimate mean peak VO2 from mean 6 MWD, among groups of patients with diverse diseases without the need for cardiopulmonary exercise testing. The equation is: