Changes in mean body temperature (DeltaT(b)) estimated by the traditional two-compartment model of "core" and "shell" temperatures and an adjusted two-compartment model incorporating a correction factor were compared with values derived by whole body calorimetry. Sixty participants (31 men, 29 women) cycled at 40% of peak O(2) consumption for 60 or 90 min in the Snellen calorimeter at 24 or 30 degrees C. The core compartment was represented by esophageal, rectal (T(re)), and aural canal temperature, and the shell compartment was represented by a 12-point mean skin temperature (T(sk)). Using T(re) and conventional core-to-shell weightings (X) of 0.66, 0.79, and 0.90, mean DeltaT(b) estimation error (with 95% confidence interval limits in parentheses) for the traditional model was -95.2% (-83.0, -107.3) to -76.6% (-72.8, -80.5) after 10 min and -47.2% (-40.9, -53.5) to -22.6% (-14.5, -30.7) after 90 min. Using T(re), X = 0.80, and a correction factor (X(0)) of 0.40, mean DeltaT(b) estimation error for the adjusted model was +9.5% (+16.9, +2.1) to -0.3% (+11.9, -12.5) after 10 min and +15.0% (+27.2, +2.8) to -13.7% (-4.2, -23.3) after 90 min. Quadratic analyses of calorimetry DeltaT(b) data was subsequently used to derive best-fitting values of X for both models and X(0) for the adjusted model for each measure of core temperature. The most accurate model at any time point or condition only accounted for 20% of the variation observed in DeltaT(b) for the traditional model and 56% for the adjusted model. In conclusion, throughout exercise the estimation of DeltaT(b) using any measure of core temperature together with mean skin temperature irrespective of weighting is inaccurate even with a correction factor customized for the specific conditions.