Cardiac output increases during incremental-load exercise to meet metabolic skeletal muscle demand. This response requires a fast adjustment in heart rate and stroke volume. The heart rate is well known to increase linearly with exercise load; however, data for stroke volume during incremental-load exercise are unclear. Our objectives were to (a) review studies that have investigated stroke volume on incremental load exercise and (b) summarize the findings for stroke volume, primarily at maximal-exercise load.


A comprehensive review of the Cochrane Library’s, Embase, Medline, SportDiscus, PubMed, and Web of Sci-ence databases was carried out for the years 1985 to the present. The search was performed between February and June 2014 to find studies evaluating changes in stroke volume during incremental-load exercise. Controlled and uncontrolled trials were evaluated for a quality score.


The stroke volume data in maximal-exercise load are inconsistent. There is evidence to hypothesis that stroke volume increases during maximal-exercise load, but other lines of evidence indicate that stroke volume reaches a plateau under these circumstances, or even decreases.


The stroke volume are unclear, include contradictory evidence. Additional studies with standardized reporting for subjects (e.g., age, gender, physical fitness, and body position), exercise test protocols, and left ventricular function are required to clarify the characteristics of stroke volume during incremental maximal-exercise load.

Keywords: Aerobic exercise, cardiac function, heart physiology, incremental exercise, maximal-exercise load, stroke volume.
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