The purpose of this research was to investigate the effects of apriori estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) and endurance exercise training in postmenopausal women on abdominal visceral fat (AFV) and other selected variables related to body composition and the metabolic syndrome (MS). Forty-eight healthy and previously sedentary postmenopausal women (mean age, 54.3 years) who were enrolled in the HERITAGE Family Study (HFS) served as subjects. Of these 48 women, 18 were currently taking ERT and the remaining 30 were taking no supplemental estrogen (NHRT). Computed tomography (CT) scans were used to assess AVF as well as total abdominal fat (TAF) and abdominal subcutaneous fat (ASF). Body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratios (WHR) were calculated while body fat percentage (%FAT) and total fat mass (FATM) was assessed using underwater weighing. Blood assays for HDL-cholesterol (HDL-C), LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C), and triglycerides (TG) were conducted at a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) certified laboratory, while blood pressure measurements were assessed using an automated system. All measurements were obtained in duplicate before and after a regimen of endurance exercise training. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) showed AVF to be an average of 31.6 cm(2) less in the women receiving ERT, but lost statistical significance when AVF was adjusted for FATM. Mean values for TAF, ASF, and waist girth were also less in the women receiving ERT, but only waist girth achieved statistical significance. No differences were found in BMI or %FAT, but mean WHR was 5% smaller in the ERT group. Baseline values for HDL-C was higher and LDL-C lower in the ERT group. Prevalence of the MS tended to be greater in the NHRT group, but did not achieve statistical significance. There were no differences in training responses in any of the body composition variables between groups, however, in the ERT group LDL-C decreased with training while TG increased. It was concluded that postmenopausal women taking ERT tended to have lower values of AVF and other indicators of body composition, a more favorable lipid profile, and a slightly reduced risk of the MS when compared with women not taking supplemental hormones. Also exercise training did not improve the overall MS status of either group, as LDL-C status improved in the ERT group while TG decreased in the NHRT group.