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.

Commonly used field tests of exercise capacity for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are:

A description of how to perform field walking 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

Modified Incremental Step Test (MIST)

The modified incremental step test (MIST) is a reliable and responsive measure of exercise capacity in people with stable chronic respiratory disease. The MIST also allows for accurate prescription of exercise training and reassessment following exercise programs. Importantly, the MIST can be performed in environments outside of typical rehabilitation locations, such as the home, where established field walking tests are not feasible.

Modified Incremental Step Test (MIST) instructions are available in written and video format:

The audio file for conducting the MIST can be found here.