This study examines the effects of a 2-h exercise of moderate intensity (50% of VO2 max) on the tracer-determined turnover rate of ketone bodies (KB) in 21 normal subjects fasted for 16 h, 5 days, whose basal ketonemia ranged between 0.09 and 6.16 mM. The KB response observed at the end of exercise is a function of the initial degree of ketosis. When basal ketonemia is below 0.6 mM, exercise enhances ketogenesis (Ra), the amplitude of this process being positively correlated with KB level. There is a concomitant acceleration of the metabolic clearance rate (MCR) of KB attaining 40-50%. When ketonemia exceeds 2.5 mM, the stimulatory effects of exercise on Ra and on MCR become less marked as basal ketonemia rises and are completely abolished or even reversed when initial KB level is higher than 3-4 mM. The pattern of changes in the concentration and in the overall disposal rate of KB were similar to that of Ra. It is suggested that the parallel inhibition of the stimulatory effect of work on hepatic ketogenesis and on muscular extraction of ketones associated with increasing degrees of fasting hyperketonemia has two physiological implications: it maintains the preferential utilization of KB by nonmuscular tissues (presumably the brain) and prevents the development of uncontrolled hyperketonemia, despite the intense catabolic situation created by the combination of exercise and starvation.