1. The effect of 5 consecutive days of hill walking on electrolyte balance, fluid homeostasis, plasma renin activity and plasma aldosterone concentration was studied in five male subjects.
2. The 5-day exercise period was preceded by a 4-day control period and followed by a 4-day recovery period. Throughout the 13-day study subjects ate a fixed diet.
3. After 5 days of exercise subjects had retained a mean of 264 mmol (sd 85) of sodium. Plasma sodium concentration remained constant at 142.0 mmol/l (sd 5.4). This indicates an expansion of the extracellular space by 1.84 litres.
4. By the end of the exercise period there was a positive water balance of about 0.9 litre. Thus there was a net movement of 0.94 litre of fluid from the intracellular to the extracellular space.
5. Packed cell volume decreased from a mean of 43.5% to 37.9% after 5 days of exercise, indicating that about 0.9 litre of the extracellular fluid entered the vascular compartment. The remaining fluid may be responsible for the significant increase in lower leg volume.
6. During the exercise period plasma aldosterone concentration and plasma renin activity rose, and there was a highly significant correlation between these values and the sodium retention. There was also a significant correlation between sodium retention and the increase in leg volume, which suggests that oedema may be the result of prolonged exercise of this type.