Determinants of daily energy needs and physical activity are unknown in free-living elderly. This study examined determinants of daily total energy expenditure (TEE) and free-living physical activity in older women (n = 51; age = 67 +/- 6 yr) and men (n = 48; age = 70 +/- 7 yr) by using doubly labeled water and indirect calorimetry. Using multiple-regression analyses, we predicted TEE by using anthropometric, physiological, and physical activity indexes. Data were collected on resting metabolic rate (RMR), body composition, peak oxygen consumption (VO2 peak), leisure time activity, and plasma thyroid hormone. Data adjusted for body composition were not different between older women and men, respectively (in kcal/day): TEE, 2,306 +/- 647 vs. 2,456 +/- 666; RMR, 1,463 +/- 244 vs. 1,378 +/- 249; and physical activity energy expenditure, 612 +/- 570 vs. 832 +/- 581. In a subgroup of 70 women and men, RMR and VO2 peak explained approximately two-thirds of the variance in TEE (R2 = 0.62; standard error of the estimate = +/-348 kcal/day). Crossvalidation of this equation in the remaining 29 women and men was successful, with no difference between predicted and measured TEE (2,364 +/- 398 and 2,406 +/- 571 kcal/day, respectively). The strongest predictors of physical activity energy expenditure (P < 0.05) for women and men were VO2 peak (r = 0.43), fat-free mass (r = 0.39), and body mass (r = 0.34). In summary, RMR and VO2 peak are important independent predictors of energy requirements in the elderly. Furthermore, cardiovascular fitness and fat-free mass are moderate predictors of physical activity in free-living elderly.