1. The effect of 7 consecutive days of strenuous exercise, hill-walking, on water balance and distribution was studied in five subjects. The exercise was preceded and followed by 3 control days. The diet was fixed throughout but water was allowed ad libitum.
2. Packed cell volume was measured daily. Serum electrolytes and arginine vasopressin were measured twice daily. Daily water, sodium and potassium balances were calculated.
3. During exercise there was a fall in packed cell volume, reaching a maximum of 11% by day 5 and a retention of sodium reaching a cumulative maximum of 358 mmol by day 6. During and immediately after exercise there was a retention of potassium, reaching a total of 120 mmol by day 3 after stopping exercise.
4. There was a loss of 650 ml of water on day 1 of exercise, followed by a modest retention reaching a cumulative maximum of 650 ml on day 5 of exercise.
5. Neither arginine vasopressin nor serum electrolyte concentrations were affected by exercise.
6. From the packed cell volume, sodium and water balances it was calculated that by day 5 of exercise there was an increase in plasma volume of 0·68 litre (22%), an increase in interstitial fluid volume of 2·0 litres (17%) and a decrease in intracellular fluid volume of 1·8 litres (8%).
7. These changes, together with the clinical observation of facial and ankle oedema during the experiment, suggest that continuous exercise may cause oedema and thus may be a factor in the aetiology of high-altitude oedema.