Thermoregulatory responses of six trained swimmers and five runners to cold and heat were evaluated during 30 min of exercise (60% VO2max) while immersed to the neck in 20, 25, 30, and 35 degrees C water. Mean oxygen uptake was similar for both groups during all four trials. Changes in metabolic rate during the 8th to 28th min were significantly greater for the runners in 20 degrees C water, and swimmers in 30 and 35 degrees C water. Heart rates, Tsk, delta Tre, Tb, body heat content, and heat storage were dependent on water temperature. Runners were able to attain higher sweat rates than swimmers in 35 degrees C water. Swimmers had significantly greater tissue conductance values in the 35 degrees C exposure. Swimmers thermoregulated better in 20 degrees C water than runners, possibly due to a larger surface area-to-volume ratio, percentage body fat, subcutaneous fat, or improved vasomotor control. Exercise in the heat was better tolerated by runners. Physical training in water does not improve heat acclimatization to the extent of training in air, but does improve cold tolerance.