BACKGROUND: The 6-Minute Walk Test (6MWT) is a widely used measurement of functional exercise capacity in chronic lung disease. While exercise intolerance has been identified in patients with bronchiectasis, the clinical determinants of the 6MWT in this population have not been examined. The aim of this study was to 1) establish the relationship between the 6-Minute Walk Distance (6MWD), disease severity and Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQOL) and 2) identify predictors of exercise tolerance in adults with bronchiectasis. METHODS: The 6MWT was performed in 27 patients with bronchiectasis (mean [SD] FEV(1) 73.9% predicted [23.4]). Disease severity was assessed using spirometry and HRCT scoring while HRQOL was evaluated using the St George's Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ) and the Short-Form 36 (SF-36). The relationships were evaluated using correlation and multiple regression. RESULTS: The 6MWD correlated positively with FVC (r=0.52, p<0.01), generations of bronchopulmonary divisions (r(s)=0.38, p<0.05) and SF-36 physical summary (r=0.71, p<0.001) while a negative correlation was observed between all domains of the SGRQ (all correlations r>0.5, p<0.001). Multiple regression analysis indicated that the SGRQ activity, symptom scores and generations of bronchial divisions involved were identified as independent predictors of the 6MWD, explaining 76% of the variance. CONCLUSIONS: Measures of HRQOL demonstrated a stronger association with the 6MWD compared to physiological measures of disease severity in patients with predominantly mild to moderate bronchiectasis.