Physical activity has the potential to modulate appetite control by improving the sensitivity of the physiological satiety signalling system, by adjusting macronutrient preferences or food choices and by altering the hedonic response to food. There is evidence for all these actions. Concerning the impact of physical activity on energy balance, there exists a belief that physical activity drives up hunger and increases food intake, thereby rendering it futile as a method of weight control. There is, however, no evidence for such an immediate or automatic effect. Short (1-2 d)-term and medium (7-16 d)-term studies demonstrate that men and women can tolerate substantial negative energy balances of < or = 4 MJ energy cost/d when performing physical activity programmes. Consequently, the immediate effect of taking up exercise is weight loss (although this outcome is sometimes difficult to assess due to changes in body composition or fluid compartmentalization). However, subsequently food intake begins to increase in order to provide compensation for about 30% of the energy expended in activity. This compensation (up to 16 d) is partial and incomplete. Moreover, subjects separate into compensators and non-compensators. The exact nature of these differences in compensation and whether it is actually reflective of non-compliance with protocols is yet to be determined. Some subjects (men and women) performing activity with a cost of < or = 4 MJ/d for 14 d, show no change in daily energy intake. Conversely, it can be demonstrated that when active individuals are forced into a sedentary routine food intake does not decrease to a lower level to match the reduced energy expenditure. Consequently, this situation creates a substantial positive energy balance accompanied by weight gain. The next stage is to further characterize the compensators and non-compensators, and to identify the mechanisms (physiological or behavioural) that are responsible for the rate of compensation and its limits.