The effect of exercise on vascular health in chronic kidney disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2023 Nov 1;325(5):F638-F655. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.00152.2023. Epub 2023 Sep 21.


Patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease. This increased risk cannot be fully explained by traditional risk factors such as hypertension. Endothelial dysfunction and arterial stiffness have been suggested as factors that explain some of the increased risk and are independently associated with important cardiovascular outcomes in patients with CKD. Studies in other disease populations have shown the positive effects of exercise on vascular dysfunction. The aim of this review was to determine whether exercise training interventions improve measures of vascular function and morphology in patients across the spectrum of CKD and which exercise training interventions are most efficacious. A systematic search of Medline, Embase, and the Cochrane Central Register identified 25 randomized controlled trials. Only randomized control trials using an exercise intervention with a nonexercising control group and at least one measure of vascular function or morphology were included. Participants were patients with nondialysis CKD or transplant patients or those requiring dialysis therapy. A systematic review was conducted according to Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. A meta-analysis was completed for pulse wave velocity, augmentation index, and measures of endothelium-dependent vasodilation. Data from 25 studies with 872 participants showed that exercise training reduced pulse wave velocity and augmentation index but had no effect on endothelium-dependent vasodilation. Subgroup analyses suggested that exercise interventions of at least moderate intensity were more likely to be effective. Limitations included the absence of observational studies or other interventions aimed at increasing habitual physical activity. Further studies are warranted to investigate which are the most effective exercise interventions.NEW & NOTEWORTHY A thorough systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of exercise training on measures of vascular function in patients with chronic kidney disease, including arterial stiffness and endothelial function, were conducted. Subgroup analyses investigated how differences in exercise training, according to frequency, intensity, type, and timing, have an impact on the efficacy of the intervention.

Keywords: arterial stiffness; chronic kidney disease; endothelial; exercise.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Humans
  • Pulse Wave Analysis*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic* / diagnosis
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic* / therapy