Objectives: To determine the correlates of the total 6-min walk distance (6MWD) in a population sample of adults ≥ 68 years old.
Methods: The standardized 6-min walk test (6MWT) was administered to the Cardiovascular Health Study cohort during their seventh annual examination.
Results: Of the 3,333 participants with a clinic visit, 2,281 subjects (68%) performed the 6MWT. There were no untoward events. The mean 6MWD was 344 m (SD, 88 m). Independent general correlates of a shorter 6MWD in linear regression models in women and men included the following: older age, higher weight, larger waist, weaker grip strength, symptoms of depression, and decreased mental status. Independent disease or risk factor correlates of a shorter 6MWD included the following: a low ankle BP, use of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, and arthritis in men and women; higher C-reactive protein, diastolic hypertension, and lower FEV1 in women; and the use of digitalis in men. Approximately 30% of the variance in 6MWD was explained by the linear regression models. Newly described bivariate associations of a shorter 6MWD included impaired activities of daily living; self-reported poor health; less education; nonwhite race; a history of coronary heart disease, transient ischemic attacks, stroke, or diabetes; and higher levels of C-reactive protein, fibrinogen, or WBC count.
Conclusions: Most community-dwelling elderly persons can quickly and safely perform this functional status test in the outpatient clinic setting. The test may be used clinically to measure the impact of multiple comorbidities, including cardiovascular disease, lung disease, arthritis, diabetes, and cognitive dysfunction and depression, on exercise capacity and endurance in older adults. Expected values should be adjusted for the patient’s age, gender, height, and weight.