Twelve highly trained male endurance athletes and 12 normally active matched control subjects were studied by two-dimensional and M-mode echocardiography to evaluate changes in the right and left heart chambers associated with intense aerobic training. Maximal oxygen uptake, a measure of cardiovascular fitness, ranged from 62.1 to 82.6 ml/kg/min in the athletes and from 33.0 to 49.3 ml/kg/min in the control subjects (p less than 0.001). The athletes had significantly greater left ventricular wall thickness (p less than 0.01), left ventricular chamber area (p less than 0.005), left atrial area (p less than 0.01), right ventricular chamber area (p less than 0.002), right ventricular wall thickness (p less than 0.05), and right atrial area (p less than 0.01). Proportionality of cardiac chamber enlargement in the athletes was shown by similar ratios of both right-to-left ventricular areas and right-to-left atrial areas in the two groups. Left ventricular contractility was not significantly different between groups. Cardiac enlargement in endurance athletes enables a greater stroke volume for the performance of sustained, intense exercise; hypertrophy of the chamber walls normalizes wall stress. These changes occur symmetrically in both right and left cardiac chambers in the endurance athlete, reflecting bilateral hemodynamic loading. The symmetry of the endurance athlete's cardiac enlargement differs from most pathologic conditions which have heterogeneous effects on specific cardiac chambers.