Purpose: To determine if, in physically active individuals, low-intensity Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) training is more effective than training without BFR at improving measures of aerobic capacity.

Methods: A database search was conducted for articles that matched inclusion criteria (minimum level 2 evidence, physically active participants, comparison of low-intensity BFR to no BFR training, comparison of pre-post testing with aerobic fitness or performance, training protocols >2 weeks, studies published after 2010) by two authors and assessed by one using the PEDro scale (a minimum of 5/10 was required) to ensure level 2 quality studies that were then analyzed.

Results: Four studies met all inclusion criteria. Three of the studies found significant improvements in aerobic capacity (VO2max) using BFR compared to no BFR. While the fourth study reported significant improvements in time to exertion (TTE) training with BFR, this same study did not find significant improvements in measures of aerobic capacity with BFR training. All compared BFR to non-BFR training. It was noted that high-intensity training without BFR was superior to both low-intensity training with and without BFR with respect to improvements in aerobic capacity.

Conclusions: Moderate evidence exists to support the use of low-intensity BFR training to improve measures of aerobic capacity in physically active individuals over not using BRF. Clinicians seeking to maintain aerobic capacity in their patients who are unable, for various reasons, to perform high levels of aerobic activity may find low-intensity BFR training useful as a substitution while still receiving improvements in measures of aerobic capacity.

Figure 1.jpg (41 kB)
Summary of search history and included studies.

Table 1 - revised.docx (12 kB)
Summary of Study Designs of Articles Retrieved

Table 2 - revised.docx (39 kB)
Characteristics of included studies