Many epidemiologic studies indicate a relation between vigorous physical activity and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Physical activity itself is unlikely to cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, but could it modify the effects of other etiologic factors such as neurotoxins? Vigorous physical activity could potentiate the effect of a toxin to motor neurons by any of several mechanisms, especially if the toxin's effects were mediated through excitation. Exercise could alter the extent of exposure or could influence the distribution, metabolism or potency of an excitotoxin. Future epidemiologic studies of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis should include sufficient detail about vigorous physical exercise to explore this relationship further.