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a man walking up a long flight of stairs

Personal Asthma Test

Do you have an activity that tests your asthma or that you may use as a gauge for how you are doing? My general goal is to not have asthma interfere with my daily activities. One of the tests that can be used to look at functioning is the 6-minute walk test, which can be used as a way of gauging exercise tolerance (or less than maximal exercise capacity, in particular).

The 6-minute walk test

The 6-minute walk test can be a good gauge of daily functioning as most of the tasks are not performed at maximal capacity, including climbing stairs. Essentially, the 6-minute walk test assesses how far a person can walk over the course of 6 minutes. The distance they travel indicates aerobic capacity.1

The 6-minute walk test is generally used to provide a quantitative measurement to function outside of that was "difficult" or "easy." It can also indicate responses to treatment in severe lung and heart disease.1

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Conducting the 6-minute walk test myself

Last week I took the subway for the first time in some time. Since I have generally been doing quite well, I did not give it much thought. I positioned myself in the last car that would be closest to the exit and my final destination. It should have only been 2 flights of subway stairs up to street level and, generally, there are escalators. Of course, the escalators were down this particular day.

I was going to embark on my asthma test: the stairs of the subway. These can either be moments of glory when in good health, or my nemesis on a bad asthma day. I have a story about riding the subway in NYC and, although I used to do those stairs on a regular basis, I was close to losing a lung afterward. Also, public transit may not have been the best a couple of days post bronchoscopy, during a period of poor asthma control.

The challenge of stairs

Stairs can be a challenge when you feel like they are particularly steep and require more work to get up them. For my test, it was about 40 stairs altogether. In hindsight, a lesson could have been taking albuterol before my subway ride but, honestly, it did not dawn on me.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really have time for pre-medicating; I had a meeting in 9 minutes, although it was just across the street. I could have taken an alternate escalator or the elevator, but I would have needed to walk to the other end of the platform and hope that those ones were not out as well. This would have also put me blocks away from my destination with farther to walk and potentially even more stairs.

I took a breath in, had a good exhale, and began climbing the stairs. The first few were very easy and I was happy to find them not too difficult. By the time I got to the second set, it was more challenging. With good breath control and a little work, I made it with just a slight huff and puff. While it wasn’t quite a sprint and I thought I was feeling better than I had been, it was at least good to know that I could get up fairly easily. I did some analysis and caught a trend in my asthma control that needed evaluating.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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