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Impact of handgrip exercise intensity on brachial artery flow-mediated dilation



Previous studies that have examined the impact of exercise intensity on conduit artery endothelial function have involved large muscle group exercise which induces local and systemic effects. The aim of this study was to examine flow-mediated dilation (FMD) before and after incremental intensities of handgrip exercise (HE), to assess the role of local factors such as blood flow and shear rate on post-exercise brachial artery function.


Eleven healthy men attended the laboratory on three occasions. Subjects undertook 30 min of handgrip exercise at three intensities (5, 10 or 15 % MVC). Brachial artery FMD, shear and blood flow patterns were examined before, immediately after and 60 min post exercise.


Handgrip exercise increased mean and antegrade shear rate (SR) and blood flow (BF) and reduced retrograde SR and BF (all P < 0.01). Exercise intensity was associated with a dose-dependent increase in both mean and antegrade BF and SR (interaction, P < 0.01). Post-hoc tests revealed that, whilst handgrip exercise did not immediately induce post-exercise changes, FMD was significantly higher 60 min post-exercise following the highest exercise intensity (5.9 ± 2.8–10.4 ± 5.8 %, P = 0.01).


Handgrip exercise leads to intensity-and time-dependent changes in conduit artery function, possibly mediated by local increases in shear, with improvement in function evident at 1 h post-exercise when performed at a higher intensity.

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Analysis of variance


Blood flow


Diastolic blood pressure


Flow-mediated dilation


Handgrip exercise


Linear mixed model


Least significant difference


Mean arterial pressure


Maximal voluntary contractile


Reactive oxygen species


Systolic blood pressure


Shear rate


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We would like to thank the participants for their time in completing this research study. Professor Green’s research is supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Grant ID 1045204.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standard

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Correspondence to Ceri L. Atkinson.

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Communicated by Massimo Pagani.

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Atkinson, C.L., Carter, H.H., Dawson, E.A. et al. Impact of handgrip exercise intensity on brachial artery flow-mediated dilation. Eur J Appl Physiol 115, 1705–1713 (2015).

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  • Exercise intensity
  • Endothelial function
  • Shear stress
  • Cardiovascular risk