The Effects of Exercise Training on Brachial Artery Flow-Mediated Dilation: A Meta-analysis

J Cardiopulm Rehabil Prev. 2017 Mar;37(2):77-89. doi: 10.1097/HCR.0000000000000206.


Purpose: Flow-mediated dilation, a barometer of cardiovascular (CV) health, is reported to increase with exercise training (ET); however, the potential moderating factors of ET are not clear to date. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of ET assessed by brachial artery flow-mediated dilation (BAFMD).

Methods: Authors searched PubMed between January 1999 and December 2013, bibliographies, and reviews to identify studies examining ET and BAFMD. Two independent reviewers extracted quality, descriptive, exercise, and outcome data of eligible studies. Data were presented as weighted effect sizes (ESs) and 95% confidence limits.

Results: Analysis included 66 studies reporting BAFMD data (1865 ET and 635 control subjects). Overall, ET had significant improvements in BAFMD compared with controls (P < .0001). Exercise training at higher ET intensities resulted in a greater increase in BAFMD (9.29; 95% CI, 5.09-13.47) than lower ET intensities (3.63; 95% CI, -0.56 to 7.83) or control (-0.42; 95% CI, -2.06 to 1.21). Subjects whose ET duration was ≥150 min/wk (11.33; 95% CI, 7.15-15.51) had a significant improvement in BAFMD compared with those with <150 min/wk (4.79; 95% CI, 3.08-6.51) or control (-0.30; 95% CI, -1.99 to 1.39). Age (P = .11) and baseline artery diameter (P = .31) did not modify the BAFMD response to ET.

Conclusion: Exercise training contributes to a significant increase in BAFMD. These results provide indirect evidence that ET alters a well-known factor associated with the primary and secondary prevention of CV diseases. Exercise training interventions, including greater intensity and duration, may optimize the increase in BAFMD.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Brachial Artery / physiology*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology*