This study examined the relationship between daily physical activity and aerobic fitness in 11-16-year-olds. Habitual physical activity was assessed in 28 boys (mean(s.d.) age 13.6(1.3) years) and 45 girls (mean(s.d) age 13.7(1.3) years) from minute-by-minute heart rate monitoring during 3 school days. Aerobic fitness was assessed by determining the percentage peak VO2 at blood lactate reference values of 2.5 and 4.0 mmol l-1 during incremental treadmill running. The 4.0 mmol l-1 level occurred at a mean(s.d.) value of 89(7)% peak VO2 in both boys and girls and mean(s.d.) values at the 2.5 mmol l-1 level were 82(9)% peak VO2 in girls. Mean(s.d.) percentage time with heart rates at or above 140 beats min-1 was 6(3)% in boys and 5(3)% in girls. Corresponding values for percentage time at or above 160 beats min-1 were 3(2) for boys and 2(1) for girls. The number of 10- and 20-min periods of activity with the heart rate sustained above the 140 and 160 beats min-1 thresholds were also totalled over the 3 days. No significant relationships were identified between percentage peak VO2 at the 2.5 or 4.0 mmol l-1 blood lactate reference levels and either percentage time or number of 10- or 20-min periods above 140 or 160 beats min-1 (P > 0.05). These results support the hypothesis that daily physical activity levels in 11-16-year-old children do not stress aerobic metabolism sufficiently to influence aerobic fitness.