Six Minute Walk test

This webpage from Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) describes what to expect when your child is booked for a Six Minute Walk test (6MWT). The 6MWT is submaximal exercise test.

During the test your child will be asked to complete as many laps as they can of a measured distance during a six minute period. This is a self-paced test therefore, your child will be asked to complete the test at a pace they feel comfortable. The aim is to complete as many laps as possible.

At GOSH, the 6MWT test is carried out by a respiratory physiologist in the lung function unit.

What to bring

A letter or a MyGOSH message will be sent in advance giving relevant information prior to the day of testing. Please ensure your child wears suitable clothing for the test, comfortable shoes are recommended. If your child uses supplemental oxygen (continuously or sometimes during the day), please bring this with and walking aids if required. You child should continue the use of regular medication.

Important information

The person bringing your child for the test should have ‘Parental Responsibility’ for them. Parental Responsibility refers to the individual who has legal rights, responsibilities, duties, power and authority to make decisions for a child. If the person bringing your child does not have Parental Responsibility, we may have to cancel the test.

What happens on the day

On the day of the test your child will be greeted by a physiologist, they will start by giving a description of the test and you will have the opportunity to ask any questions. For the test your child will be asked to wear a probe on their finger, this will record oxygen saturations and heart rate throughout. The probe is attached to a small portable unit that will be worn around the child’s wrist (like a wristwatch). Before the test starts, we will ask your child some questions about their breathing and leg tiredness, we record this on a visual analogue score.

When your child is ready to start the physiologist will ask them to walk as many laps as they can of the measured distance, walking at their own pace. They should not run or jog during the test. For younger children or those who require oxygen whilst walking they can be accompanied by a parent or another member of our team. A walker or aid can be used during the six minutes if required.

Your child can slow down or rest if they feel it is necessary, a chair will be available for them. The test can be stopped at any point if your child feels they are unable to continue.

Heart rate and oxygen levels are monitored continuously throughout the test.

Once the 6 minutes is completed, we will ask your child about their breathing and leg tiredness using the visual analogue score. They can rest for as long as they need to after the test.

Are there any risks?

Your child’s baseline oxygen saturations and heart rate will be assessed and, in some circumstances checked with a respiratory consultant before the 6MWT. If your child uses supplemental oxygen, the decision to perform on or off oxygen will be made by their consultant beforehand.

Getting the results

The test results will be uploaded onto our electronic patient record system for your doctor to view. If you are seeing your doctor in clinic or later that day, they will go through the results with you.

If you are not seeing the doctor that day, they will still be able to view your test results and contact you if your child needs to do anything before their next appointment.

Compiled by:
The Lung Function Unit in collaboration with the Child and Family Information Group
Last review date:
February 2024