This study was designed to investigate fitness characteristics of college women and men (n = 427 and 423, respectively) aged 17-20 years whose values were compared to the data of the 1981 Canada Fitness Survey (CFS). Muscular fitness as revealed by the maximal number of arm extensions (push ups) was lower in subjects of this study compared to those tested in the 1981 CFS. On the other hand, body weight, waist circumference and the sum of five skinfolds were greater in subjects of the present study. These differences between the results of this study and those of the 1981 CFS were particularly pronounced in the upper percentile ranks. The classification of subjects on the basis of the number of grades completed during a step test revealed significant differences in subcutaneous adiposity between fitness subgroups. Reported participation in vigorous physical activities was also predictive of subcutaneous adiposity in men but to a lesser extent than the number of grades completed during a step test. When the number of grades and exercise participation were combined to detect between-group morphological differences, large differences in subcutaneous adiposity were observed in both men and women. This suggests that the effect of vigorous activity and aerobic fitness on adiposity may be much greater than what is generally perceived by health professionals and agencies.