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Cycle and treadmill exercise tests are unsuitable for elderly, frail and severely limited patients with heart failure and may not reflect capacity to undertake day-to-day activities. Walking tests have proved useful as measures of outcome for patients with chronic lung disease. To investigate the potential value of the 6-minute walk as an objective measure of exercise capacity in patients with chronic heart failure, the test was administered six times over 12 weeks to 18 patients with chronic heart failure and 25 with chronic lung disease. The subjects also underwent cycle ergometer testing, and their functional status was evaluated by means of conventional measures. The walking test proved highly acceptable to the patients, and stable, reproducible results were achieved after the first two walks. The results correlated with the conventional measures of functional status and exercise capacity. The authors conclude that the 6-minute walk is a useful measure of functional exercise capacity and a suitable measure of outcome for clinical trials in patients with chronic heart failure.