BACKGROUND: Exercise tolerance in COPD is only moderately well predicted by airflow obstruction assessed by FEV(1). We determined whether other phenotypic characteristics, including CT scan measures, are independent predictors of 6-min walk distance (6MWD) in the COPDGene cohort. METHODS: COPDGene recruits non-Hispanic Caucasian and African American current and ex-smokers. Phenotyping measures include postbronchodilator FEV(1) % predicted and inspiratory and expiratory CT lung scans. We defined % emphysema as the percentage of lung voxels < -950 Hounsfield units on the inspiratory scan and % gas trapping as the percentage of lung voxels < -856 Hounsfield units on the expiratory scan. RESULTS: Data of the first 2,500 participants of the COPDGene cohort were analyzed. Participant age was 61 +/- 9 years; 51% were men; 76% were non-Hispanic Caucasians, and 24% were African Americans. Fifty-six percent had spirometrically defined COPD, with 9.3%, 23.4%, 15.0%, and 8.3% in GOLD (Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease) stages I to IV, respectively. Higher % emphysema and % gas trapping predicted lower 6MWD (P < .001). However, in a given spirometric group, after adjustment for age, sex, race, and BMI, neither % emphysema nor % gas trapping, or their interactions with FEV(1) % predicted, remained a significant 6MWD predictor. In a given spirometric group, only 16% to 27% of the variance in 6MWD could be explained by age, male sex, Caucasian race, and lower BMI as significant predictors of higher 6MWD. CONCLUSIONS: In this large cohort of smokers in a given spirometric stage, phenotypic characteristics were only modestly predictive of 6MWD. CT scan measures of emphysema and gas trapping were not predictive of 6MWD after adjustment for other phenotypic characteristics.