Lung volumes were measured at rest and during exercise by an open-circuit N2-washout technique in patients with interstitial lung disease (ILD). Exercise tidal flow-volume (F-V) curves were also compared with maximal F-V curves to investigate whether these patients demonstrated flow limitation. Seven patients underwent 4 min of constant work rate bicycle ergometer exercise at 40, 70, and 90% of their previously determined maximal work rates. End-expiratory lung volume and total lung capacity were measured at rest and near the end of each period of exercise. There was no significant change in end-expiratory lung volume or total lung capacity when resting measurements were compared with measurements at 40, 70, and 90% work rates. During exercise, expiratory flow limitation was evident in four patients who reported stopping exercise because of dyspnea. In the remaining patients who discontinued exercise because of leg fatigue, no flow limitation was evident. In all patients, the mean ratio of maximal minute ventilation to maximal ventilatory capacity (calculated from maximal F-V curves) was 67%. We conclude that lung volumes during exercise do not significantly differ from those at rest in this population and that patients with ILD may demonstrate expiratory flow limitation during exercise. Furthermore, because most patients with ILD are not breathing near their maximal ventilatory capacity at the end of exercise, we suggest that respiratory mechanics are not the primary cause of their exercise limitation.