The effect of a prolonged warm-up period of exercise on subjects with exercise-induced asthma (EIA) has been studied. Seven asthmatic subjects with known EIA were exercised according to two different protocols on two separate days, which were randomized. On Day A, subjects performed a standard 6-min treadmill run (S1A), which increased heart rate to 98% predicted maximum, followed 45 min later by an identical run (S2A). Refractoriness was demonstrated on the second exercise test, with a mean maximal fall in FEV1 of 29 +/- 3.1% and a PEFR of 32 +/- 2.8% after S2A, compared with a mean maximal fall in FEV1 of 46 +/- 2.6% and a PEFR of 51 +/- 4.0% after S1A. On Day B, subjects performed a 30-min treadmill run at a lower gradient (W1B), followed 21 min later by another standard 6-min treadmill test (S2B). W1B was followed by significantly less EIA (mean maximal fall in FEV1 of 17 +/- 5.4% and a PEFR of 21 +/- 6.3%) than followed S1A. Nevertheless, when subjects subsequently performed a standard 6-min run (S2B), significant refractoriness to bronchoconstriction, comparable to that observed after S2A, developed, with a mean maximal fall in FEV1 of 26 +/- 3.6% and a PEFR of 27 +/- 2.3% (p less than 0.05). We conclude that a warm-up period of exercise can induce refractoriness to EIA without itself inducing marked bronchoconstriction.