Although the term anaerobic threshold was introduced 20 years ago, the concept that an exercise-induced lactic acidosis occurs at a particular oxygen uptake which varies among subjects is over 50 years old. The surge of new interest in the parameter relates to its strong relationship to prolonged exercise performance. The average marathon running speed has been shown to be closely related to the running speed at the anaerobic threshold. Numerous studies have shown that the parameter can be validly measured during incremental exercise from the gas exchange consequences of the increased carbon dioxide and hydrogen ion levels in blood resulting from bicarbonate buffering of lactic acid. Refinement of the noninvasive detection scheme has made the parameter attractive to investigators in preventative, rehabilitative, and occupational medicine and to researchers in the exercise sciences. Controversy exists regarding the specific cause for the onset of exercise-induced metabolic acidosis. As experimentation continues to unravel the mechanisms of lactate production and ventilatory control during exercise, the anaerobic threshold concept can be further evaluated.