QUESTION:What is the effect of exercise on increasing participation and activity levels and reducing impairment in the rehabilitation of people with upper limb fractures? DESIGN:Systematic review of controlled trials. PARTICIPANTS:Adults following an upper limb fracture. INTERVENTION:Any exercise therapy program, including trials where exercise was delivered to both groups provided that the groups received different amounts of exercise. OUTCOME MEASURES:Impairments of body structure and function, activity limitations and participation restrictions. RESULTS:Twenty-two trials were identified that evaluated 1299 participants with an upper limb fracture. There was insufficient evidence from 13 trials to support or refute the effectiveness of home exercise therapy compared with therapist-supervised exercise or therapy that included exercise following distal radius or proximal humeral fractures. There was insufficient evidence from three trials to support or refute the effectiveness of exercise therapy compared with advice/no exercise intervention following distal radius fracture. There was moderate evidence from five trials (one examining distal radius fracture, one radial head fracture, and three proximal humeral fracture) to support commencing exercise early and reducing immobilisation in improving activity during upper limb rehabilitation compared with delayed exercise and mobilisation. There was preliminary evidence from one trial that exercise to the non-injured arm during immobilisation might lead to short-term benefits on increasing grip strength and range of movement following distal radius fracture. Less than 40% of included trials reported adequate exercise program descriptions to allow replication according to the TIDieR checklist. CONCLUSION:There is emerging evidence that current prescribed exercise regimens may not be effective in reducing impairments and improving activity following an upper limb fracture. Starting exercise early combined with a shorter immobilisation period is more effective than starting exercise after a longer immobilisation period. REGISTRATION:CRD42016041818. [Bruder AM, Shields N, Dodd KJ, Taylor NF (2017) Prescribed exercise programs may not be effective in reducing impairments and improving activity during upper limb fracture rehabilitation: a systematic review. Journal of Physiotherapy 63: 205-220].