The exercise capacity of 20 predialytic uraemic patients (mean age 43 +/- 12 years) was studied prospectively. Nine of these patients were examined twice in a longitudinal study. The maximal working capacity, measured by standardized exercise test on a bicycle ergometer, averaged 74 +/- 19% of the expected normal. Normal exercise ECG were registered in 16 out of 20 patients. Total hemoglobin/kg body weight (THb) was 67 +/- 16% of the expected normal and serum parathyroid hormone concentration (PTH) was 39 +/- 39 micrograms/l (normal range 0.5-1.5). Partial correlation showed a correlation between exercise capacity and PTH (p less than 0.05). In the longitudinal study the decrease in steady state exercise capacity was correlated to the decrease in THb (p less than 0.05), but not to the increase in PTH. In conclusion, patients with predialytic uraemia have a reduced maximal working capacity, due to several possible factors one of which is a reduced THb. Ischaemic heart disease seems to be of minor importance.