The effects of 12 weeks of home-based exercise training on peak oxygen consumption (VO2 max) in healthy sedentary middle-aged men, mean age 49 +/- 6 years, were evaluated. Twenty-one men trained at low intensity, 23 trained at high intensity and 20 were control subjects. Individually prescribed low- and high-intensity training was performed 5 times per week within a range of 42 to 60% and 63 to 81% of baseline VO2 max, corresponding to average heart rates of 102 to 122 and 128 to 148 beats/min, respectively. Caloric expenditure per training session approximated 350 kcal in both groups; adherence was at least 90% in both groups. VO2 max increased 8% in patients who trained at low intensity, 17% in those who trained at high intensity (both p less than 0.001), and not at all in control subjects. Low-intensity exercise training at home significantly augments functional capacity in healthy sedentary middle-aged men.