Conduit artery flow-mediated dilation (FMD) is a noninvasive index of preclinical atherosclerosis in humans. Exercise interventions can improve FMD in both healthy and clinical populations.


This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to summarize the effect of exercise training on FMD in overweight and obese children and adolescents as well as investigate the role of cardiorespiratory fitness (peak oxygen consumption [Vo2peak]) on effects observed.


PubMed, Medline, Embase, and Cinahl databases were searched from the earliest available date to February 2015.


Studies of children and/or adolescents who were overweight or obese were included.


Standardized data extraction forms were used for patient and intervention characteristics, control/comparator groups, and key outcomes. Procedural quality of the studies was assessed using a modified version of the Physiotherapy Evidence Base Database scale.


A meta-analysis involving 219 participants compared the mean difference of pre- versus postintervention vascular function (FMD) and Vo2peak between an exercise training intervention and a control condition. There was a significantly greater improvement in FMD (mean difference 1.54%, P < .05) and Vo2peak (mean difference 3.64 mL/kg/min, P < .05) after exercise training compared with controls.


Given the diversity of exercise prescriptions, participant characteristics, and FMD measurement protocols, varying FMD effect size was noted between trials.


Exercise training improves vascular function in overweight and obese children, as indicated by enhanced FMD. Further research is required to establish the optimum exercise program for maintenance of healthy vascular function in this at-risk pediatric population.

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