The effects of moderate external loading on the aerobic demand of submaximal running were studied in habitually active adult men (29-37 yrs) and 10 year-old boys. The load was symmetrically placed around the trunk and adjusted to correspond to 10% of body weight. Running was performed on a treadmill at 8, 10 and 11 km X h-1 (2.2, 2.8 and 3.1 m X s-1). A small, but consistent decrease in net oxygen uptake (gross oxygen uptake in ml X kg-1 X min-1 minus calculated basal metabolic rate) with load was observed in both groups at all speeds, except for the men at 8 km X h-1. The decrease was larger for the boys and tended to enhance with speed. The boys had a higher net oxygen uptake than the adults at all unladen running velocities, whereas the difference in the loaded condition was significant only at the highest speed. The decrease in net oxygen uptake with load could not be directly correlated with differences in body weight or step frequency. It is hypothesized that a difference in the utilization of muscle elastic energy could underlie part of the age and load dependent changes observed in running economy.