physical exercise mobilizes endothelial progenitor cells (epcs) to peripheral blood. however, this effect seems to depend on exercise characteristics, such as duration and intensity. the aim of this systematic review was to verify the impact of a single bout of aerobic exercise on the mobilization of epcs in healthy individuals, and the potential mechanisms involved. the bibliographic search was conducted on the following electronic databases in may 2011: scielo, lilacs, cochrane, clinicaltrials.gov, sportdiscus and medline. of the 178 articles initially identified, 12 met the inclusion criteria and were classified regarding quality according to the pedro scale. the magnitude and duration of the epc mobilization response were higher after long/ultralong duration exercises, and they are correlated with vascular endothelial growth factor (vegf) plasma levels. the epc mobilization peak in response to a maximal or submaximal single bout of exercise lasting up to one hour occurs immediately after the exercise or within the first hour after it. one possible mechanism is nitric oxide (no) bioavailability. the individuals' age and exercise intensity seem to interfere with the epc mobilization response. long/ultralong duration exercises promote more pronounced epc mobilization as compared with maximal or submaximal exercises. the mechanisms involve vegf release in long/ultralong duration exercises and no bioavailability in maximal or submaximal exercises lasting less than one hour.