Background and objective: Controversy exists as to whether aerobic exercise training decreases arterial stiffness in obese subjects. The aim of this study was to systematically review and quantify the effect of aerobic exercise training on arterial stiffness in obese populations.
Methods: MEDLINE, Cochrane, Scopus, and Web of Science were searched up until May 2013 for trials assessing the effect of aerobic training interventions lasting 8 weeks or more on arterial stiffness in obese populations (body mass index ≥30 kg/m(2)). Standardized mean difference (SMD) in arterial stiffness parameters (augmentation index, β-stiffness, distensibility, pulse wave velocity, arterial waveforms) was calculated using a random-effects model. Subgroup and meta-regression analyses were used to study potential moderating factors.
Results: Eight trials, comprising a total of 235 subjects with an age range of 49-70 years, met the inclusion criteria. Arterial stiffness was not significantly reduced by aerobic training (SMD -0.17; 95 % confidence interval (CI) -0.39, 0.06, P = 0.14). Similarly, post-intervention arterial stiffness was similar between the aerobic-trained and control obese groups (SMD 0.02; 95 % CI -0.28, 0.32, P = 0.88). Neither heterogeneity nor publication bias were detected in these analyses. In subgroup analyses, arterial stiffness was significantly reduced in aerobic-trained subgroups having below median values in post- minus pre-intervention systolic blood pressure (SBP) (P < 0.01), exercise intensity rating score (P < 0.01), and methodological quality score (P < 0.01). Equivalent results were obtained in meta-regression analyses.
Conclusion: Based on current published trials, arterial stiffness is generally not reduced in middle-aged and older obese populations in response to aerobic training. However, in studies using low-intensity aerobic training and yielding a decrease in SBP, arterial stiffness may decrease. Long-term studies are needed to assess the prognostic value of these findings.