On two separate occasions, eight subjects controlled speed to run the greatest distance possible in 30 min in a hot, humid environment (ambient temperature 32 degrees C, relative humidity 60%). For the experimental test (precooling), exercise was preceeded by cold-water immersion. Precooling increased the distance run by 304 +/- 166 m (P < 0.05). Precooling decreased the pre-exercise rectal and mean skin temperature by 0.7 degrees C and 5.9 degrees C, respectively (P < 0.05). Rectal and mean skin temperature were decreased up to 20 and 25 min during exercise, respectively (P < 0.05). Mean body temperature decreased from 36.5 +/- 0.1 degrees C to 33.8 +/- 0.2 degrees C following precooling (P < 0.05) and remained lower throughout exercise (P < 0.01) and at the end of exercise (by 0.8 degrees C; P < 0.05). The rate of heat storage at the end of exercise increased from 113 +/- 45 to 249 +/- 55 W.m-2 (P < 0.005). Precooling lowered the heart rate at rest (13%), 5 (9%), and 10 min (10%) exercise (P < 0.05) and increased the end of exercise blood lactate from 4.9 +/- 0.5 to 7.4 +/- 0.9 mmol.L-1 (P < 0.01). The VO2 at 10 and 20 min of exercise and total body sweating are not different between tests. In conclusion, water immersion precooling increased exercise endurance in hot, humid conditions with an enhanced rate of heat storage and decreased thermoregulatory strain.