We hypothesized that circulating GH would increase only if a threshold of work intensity [corresponding to the anaerobic or lactate threshold (LT)] was exceeded. Ten healthy male volunteers (18-35 yr) first performed ramp-type progressive cycle-ergometer exercise to determine the LT and the maximal oxygen uptake. On subsequent mornings after an overnight fast, each subject performed bouts of 1, 5, and 10 min constant work rate exercise of either high intensity (above LT) or low intensity (below LT). A 1-h interval separated exercise bouts. Gas exchange (breath-by-breath), GH, immunoreactive insulin, glucose, lactate, pyruvate, and epinephrine and norepinephrine were measured at regular intervals. After the 10-min bouts of high compared with low intensity exercise, lactate was 7.2 +/- 3.7 mmol/L vs. 1.4 +/- 1.3, P less than 0.05; epinephrine was 1,113 +/- 519 pmol/L vs. 496 +/- 273, P less than 0.05; and norepinephrine was 7.89 +/- 3.45 nmole/L vs. 2.83 +/- 1.34, P less than 0.05. GH did not increase significantly from preexercise baseline during low intensity exercise (e.g., GH after 10-min low intensity exercise changed from baseline values by 1.5 +/- 2.0 micrograms/L, NS). Although lactate was elevated after 5-min of high intensity exercise, peak GH was significantly elevated (mean increase above baseline of 7.7 +/- 2.4 micrograms/L, P less than 0.05) only after 10 min of high intensity exercise (increases in 9 of 10 subjects). The GH increase occurred despite simultaneous increases in both IRI and glucose. A minimum duration of 10 min, high intensity exercise consistently increased circulating GH in adult males.