Exercise training and vascular function in postmenopausal individuals: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Áine Brislane*, Nicholas F. Sculthorpe, Margie H. Davenport, Alexander J. Beaumont

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


IMPORTANCE: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality for menopausal individuals. Flow-mediated dilation (FMD), a surrogate marker of CVD, improves with aerobic exercise training in healthy and nonhealthy cohorts. However, systematic evaluation and precise estimate of this effect for menopausal individuals are unknown. OBJECTIVE: We conducted a systematic review with meta-analysis to evaluate the influence of exercise training on FMD in postmenopausal individuals. EVIDENCE REVIEW: Studies were identified from systematic search of major electronic databases (PubMed, ScienceDirect, and Cochrane Library) from inception to February 2021. Healthy, postmenopausal individuals were included, following an aerobic exercise intervention assessing FMD. A random-effects meta-analysis was used to calculate a pooled effect size (mean difference [MD]) with 95% confidence interval. Heterogeneity was assessed using I2 statistics. Metaregression was used to assess the association between changes in FMD and physical characteristics (eg, blood pressure, age, baseline FMD) and intervention details (metabolic equivalents and change in maximal oxygen uptake [∆V˙ o2max ]). For variables that significantly correlated, a multiple metaregression model was used to assess the accounted variance in between-study ∆FMD%. Study quality was assessed using the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute assessment tool. FINDINGS: Nine studies, including 11 interventions (6 controlled interventions and 5 pre-post interventions; N = 182), with age range of 52 ± 4 to 64 ± 7 years underwent quantitative pooling of data. Exercise training significantly improved ∆FMD% (MD, 0.99; 95% confidence interval, 0.46-1.52; P < 0.001). Between-study heterogeneity was large and statistically significant ( I2 = 93.8%, P < 0.001). Post hoc analysis based on study design identified significant heterogeneity in the MD in ∆FMD% between controlled and pre-post study interventions ( P < 0.05). According to multiple metaregression, diastolic and systolic blood pressure and ∆V˙ o2max significantly predicted ∆FMD% ( Q = 15.74, df = 3, P < 0.01, R2 = 0.72). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Aerobic exercise training improves FMD for postmenopausal individuals, and this observation was greater among controlled versus pre-post interventions. A higher resting blood pressure and the greatest ∆V˙ o2max yielded the largest improvements in FMD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)982-992
Number of pages11
Issue number8
Early online date26 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2022


  • endothelial function
  • post-menopausal
  • exercise
  • flow-mediated dilation


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