Four healthy subjects were studied during exercise in water, using a swimming flume, and in air, on a stationary bicycle ergometer at mean skin temperatures of 30 and 33 degrees C, respectively. Measurements included rectal (Tre), esophageal (Tes), and mean skin (Ts) temperatures, metabolic energy liberation (M) and total heat production (H), maximal aerobic power output (Vo2 max), cardiac frequency and calculated peripheral tissue heat conductance (K). The results showed that for a given M and Ts, Tes and Tre were about 0.4 degree C lower and the K values were consistently higher in swimming than in bicycling. The intersubject variability in Tes and Tre was reduced by considering relative (expressed as %VO2max) rather than absolute work load, but the differences in the body temperatures between the two types of exercise remained. It was concluded that during exercise in water where the capacity for heat dissipation is increased, the body core temperature (Tc) is maintained at a lower level due to the higher forced convective and conductive heat transfer from the skin in water. This reduces the heat storage at the beginning of exercise compared with conditions in air. The lower Tc-Ts gradient for a given H in swimming, which results in higher K values implies a greater skin circulation than during cycling in air.