We conducted a case-control study in western New York state among 232 women with newly-diagnosed endometrial cancer and 631 controls selected from the community. Physical activity was measured by participation in vigorous exercise and walking at four time periods: at age 16, and at 20, 10, and 2 years before the interview and by occupational activity based on a detailed lifetime history. Women who did a moderate amount of vigorous exercise at age 16 and at 20 years before the interview were at reduced risk as compared with those who reported no activity, with odds ratios (OR) (95% confidence intervals) of 0.51 (0.31-0.83) and 0.50 (0.29-0.89), respectively. However, there was no evidence of declining risk with greater amount of activity. At later times, 10 years and 2 years before the interview, being in the highest group with regard to vigorous activity was associated with a slightly but nor significant lower risk as compared with women who reported no activity; the adjusted OR were 0.72 (0.43-1.19) and 0.67 (0.42-1.09), respectively. Being in the highest category of miles walked at age 16 (i.e., > or = 15 miles per week) was associated with a slightly reduced risk as compared with not walking at all (OR 0.64 (0.26-1.16)), whereas the number of miles walked at other times was not related to reduced risk. Occupational physical activity was not related to the risk of endometrial cancer. Overall, these results indicate that physical activity at levels prevalent in this population has at most a modest relationship to reduced risk of endometrial cancer.