We examined the relation of physical exertion to spontaneous abortion in a prospective study of 5,144 pregnant women. In a first trimester interview, we obtained data on employment and physical activity at work and at home, as well as other potential risk factors for spontaneous abortion. We measured exertion as follows: time spent working, standing and bending at work, hours between breaks, and hours spent doing housework or yardwork; shift worked; number of times lifted weights and more than 15 pounds at work or at home; number of children under age 5 years cared for at home. None of the exertion measures was appreciably associated with an increased risk of spontaneous abortion overall. In addition, physical activity at work and at home combined was not related to increased risk. For women with a history of two or more spontaneous abortions, standing at work more than 7 hours per day was associated with an adjusted odds ratio (OR) of 4.3 [95% confidence limits (CL) = 1.6, 11.7], whereas standing at work for 7 hours or less was associated with an adjusted OR of 1.7 (95% CL = 1.1, 2.6). Women without such a history who stood more than 7 hours at work had an adjusted OR near unity.