Assessment > Initial Assessment

Exercise Capacity

Measurement of Exercise Capacity

Exercise capacity is measured to ascertain a pre rehabilitation baseline and for the prescription of the exercise component of the program.

Two commonly used and validated field tests of exercise capacity for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are:

The Six-Minute Walk Test (6MWT)

The Incremental Shuttle Walk Test (ISWT)

A description of how to perform these tests can be found at the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Toolkit.


For both field walking tests – perform two baseline tests with at least 30 minutes between tests.

To evaluate the effectiveness of the program in relation to exercise capacity, the same walking test should be repeated at the completion of the program.

It is important that the walking tests are completed at the hospital or community centre where medical facilities are readily available. Clinicians should be aware of the criteria for terminating a walking test and other safety issues.

It has also been demonstrated that, when conducted at home, the 6-minute walk test underestimates exercise capacity in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, due to a shorter track length available in the home environment (Holland et al 2015).

For more information on walking tests, go to:

ERS / ATS Statement on field walking tests in chronic respiratory disease