The purpose of this study was to determine the in vivo secretory activity of sweat glands from sedentary and trained subjects. Peripheral sweat production was determined using pilocarpine iontophoresis in 40 volunteers (10 sedentary men, 10 endurance-trained men, 10 sedentary women, 10 endurance-trained women). Peripheral sweat rate was significantly (P less than 0.05) greater in trained men [6.9 +/- 0.6 (SE) g.m2.min-1] and women (6.1 +/- 0.7) compared with sedentary men (3.1 +/- 0.5) and women (2.5 +/- 0.4). Furthermore, peripheral sweat rate was significantly correlated (r = 0.73) with maximal O2 uptake. The above two findings would suggest that physical training improves the secretory activity of the human sweat gland. Such a result supports previous findings that have suggested that the potentiation in sweating seen after training is achieved via a peripheral mechanism. In addition, several gender-related differences were found in the sudorific response of men and women. Specifically, women have a significantly greater sweat gland density, whereas men have a greater sweat production per gland.