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BMC Geriatr. 2004 Jul 23;4:6.

The six-minute walk test in community dwelling elderly: influence of health status.

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Gerontology, Free University of Brussels (VUB), Belgium.



The 6 minutes walk test (6MWT) is a useful assessment instrument for the exercise capacity of elderly persons. The impact of the health status on the 6MWT-distance in elderly, however, remains unclear, reducing its value in clinical settings. The objective of this study was to investigate to what extent the 6MWT-distance in community dwelling elderly is determined by health conditions.


One hundred and fifty-six community dwelling elderly people (53 male, 103 female) were assessed for health status and performed the 6MWT. After clinical evaluation, electrocardiography and laboratory examination participants were categorized into a stratified six-level classification system according to their health status, going from A (completely healthy) to D (signs of active disease at the moment of examination).


The mean 6MWT-distance was 603 m (SD = 178). The 6MWT-distance decreased significantly with increasing age (ANOVA p = 0.0001) and with worsening health status (ANCOVA, corrected for age p < 0.001).A multiple linear regression model with health status, age and gender as independent variables explained 31% of the 6MWT-distance variability. Anthropometrical measures (stature, weight and BMI) did not significantly improve the prediction model. A significant relationship between 6MWT-distance and stature was only present in category A (completely healthy).


Significant differences in 6MWT-distance are observed according to health status in community-dwelling elderly persons. The proposed health categorizing system for elderly people is able to distinguish persons with lower physical exercise capacity and can be useful when advising physical trainers for seniors.

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