COPD Walking the Walk, Talks the Talk

Walking test measures severity of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and exercising is a bit of a catch 22. COPD makes it difficult to exercise, but without exercise COPD is destined to become more severe.

A recently conducted study sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline showed that the six-minute walking distance test (6MWD) is an accurate measure of the severity of COPD in each individual.

"COPD patients need to walk a football field daily."

Study author Martijn Spruit, PhD, scientific advisor and research leader at the Centre of Expertise for Chronic Organ Failure (CIRO+) in Horn reports the his study confirms the power of the 6MWD to categorize patients of the COPD population at higher risk of COPD related hospitalization or death from COPD. He confirms the test is a useful measure for understanding the severity in individual cases.

Grouping COPD patients according to their level of walking abilities should make it easier for  healthcare providers to individually  tailor therapy for their patients and optimize appropriate medical resources, Spruit concludes. Patient grouping will also be useful for those designing future studies in COPD.

The Study

  • 2,110 patients with average to extreme COPD  underwent a supervised 6MWD at study enrollment to provide a baseline value
  • 6MWD was repeated annually for three years
  • Death and exacerbation-related hospitalization were recorded
  • 200 patients died and 650 were hospitalized for exacerbations during the three year observation
  • Mortality rates and exacerbation-related hospitalization were higher in COPD patients whose 6MWD decreased from the initial baseline
  • 6MWD level that must be reached was  357 meters to be predictive of increased risk of hospitalization
  • 6MWD level that must be reached was 334 meters was to predictive of an increased risk of death
  • Mean rate of decline of the 6MWD was 5.7 meters per year
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Review Date: 
May 14, 2011
Last Updated:
May 16, 2011