Thorax 57:34-38 doi:10.1136/thorax.57.1.34
  • Original articles

The incremental shuttle walking test in elderly people with chronic airflow limitation

  1. C A E Dyer1,
  2. S J Singh2,
  3. R A Stockley3,
  4. A J Sinclair4,
  5. S L Hill3
  1. 1Department of Geriatric Medicine, Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust, Bath, UK
  2. 2Department of Respiratory Medicine, Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, UK
  3. 3Department of Respiratory Medicine, University Hospital Birmingham NHS Trust, Birminham, UK
  4. 4Department of Geriatric Medicine, University of Warwick, Warick, UK
  1. Correspondence:
    Dr C A E Dyer, St Martin's Hospital, Midford Road, Bath BA2 5RP, UK;
  • Accepted 21 August 2001
  • Revised 13 August 2001


Background: There is a concern that comorbidity or frailty in older people could limit the usefulness of currently available exercise tests for chronic lung disease. This study evaluated the feasibility and reproducibility of the incremental shuttle walking test (SWT) in people aged 70 years or over, compared exercise tolerance with other disability markers, and assessed whether the SWT is responsive to change after bronchodilators.

Methods: Fifty elderly patients with chronic airflow limitation (CAL) and 32 controls without airflow limitation attempted the SWT before and after combined nebulised salbutamol/ipratropium bromide. Subjects also completed the Nottingham Extended Activities of Daily Living index (NEADL) and the London Handicap score (LHS).

Results: Forty four subjects with CAL (88%) and 29 controls (84%) completed the SWT, including many with co-morbidities. Two week repeatability was good and the SWT was strongly associated with EADL (r=0.51, p<0.001) and LHS (r=0.43, p<0.004), but only weakly with forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) (r=0.31, p=0.05). Subjects with CAL walked a mean distance of 177.7 m compared with 243.3 m in controls (p<0.001); following bronchodilator therapy the distance walked increased in the CAL group by 13.2% (p=0.009).

Conclusion: The SWT is a feasible and reproducible measure of exercise tolerance in elderly people with and without airflow obstruction and correlates with other markers of disability. It is sensitive to change following bronchodilation in subjects with CAL, although the change correlates less well with improvements in FEV1. Overall, these results suggest that the SWT might be an appropriate measure to assess interventions in elderly people.