Metabolic and cardiorespiratory responses of healthy adults were compared at similar incremental power outputs during a variable-resistance rowing exercise and a fixed-resistance cycle ergometer exercise. Repeated measurements of power (watts), VEBTPS, VO2 STPD, and HR were obtained on 60 men and 47 women ranging in age from 20 to 74 yr. Average maximal power output for the men was significantly higher (P less than 0.05) for cycling than rowing: 207 +/- 5.2 W vs 195 +/- 58 W (mean +/- SE). A similar difference was also observed for women favoring cycling: 135 +/- 4.1 W vs 126 +/- 4.9 W (mean +/- SE). VEBTPS, VO2 STPD, and HR were significantly higher at all power increments during the rowing graded exercise test (RGXT) when compared with the same exercise intensity during the cycle graded exercise test (CGXT). Consistent linearity was found between VEBTPS and VO2 STPD and between HR and VO2 STPD for both exercises. The linear relationship between VEBTPS and VO2 STPD for men during RGXT was r = 0.976, P less than 0.001, slope = 44.6 +/- 1.03, and for women during RGXT it was r = 0.990, P less than 0.001, slope = 19.6 +/- 0.36. The relationship between HR and VO2 STPD for men during rowing was r = 0.989, P less than 0.001, slope = 29.1 +/- 0.76, and for women during rowing it was r = 0.971, P less than 0.001, slope = 35.7 +/- 0.89. The linear relationship between VEBTPS and VO2 STPD for men during CGXT was r = 0.991, P less than 0.001, slope = 31.1 +/- 0.98, and for women it was r = 0.959, P less than 0.991, slope = 29.6 +/- 0.87. The relationship between HR and VO2 STPD for men during CGXT was r = 0.997, P less than 0.001, slope = 28.1 +/- 0.83, and for women it was r = 0.990, R less than 0.001, slope = 35.9 +/- 0.96. Results indicated that energy costs for rowing ergometry was significantly higher than cycle ergometry at all comparative power outputs including maximum levels. It was concluded that rowing ergometry could be an effective alternative activity for physical fitness and exercise rehabilitation programs.