We evaluated left ventricular mass and function in 15 oarsmen aged 78(65-82) yr (median and range) and in 15 sedentary males aged 72 (65-81) yr by 2-D and M-mode echocardiography and cycle ergometry. The weekly time spent exercising among the oarsmen was 6 (2-18) h and two of the oarsmen were former national and international champions. The two groups of subjects had similar weight, height, and resting blood pressure. The oarsmen reached a maximal work rate of 142 (117-174) vs 113 (75-150) W for the sedentary group (P< 0.01). The internal diameters of the left ventricle were not significantly different, but the septum and posterior wall thicknesses were larger in the oarsmen (11 (8-20) vs 9 (7-11) mm, and 9 (8-13) vs 8 (7-19) mm, respectively, P < 0.023). Thus, the left ventricular mass index of the oarsmen was 19% larger (127 (101-284) vs 103 (74-134) g·m-2, P < 0.01). Also, the systolic function appeared to be superior in the oarsmen as the fractional shortening was 0.45(0.28-0.55) vs 0.36 (0.18-0.49) in the controls (P < 0.05). In conclusion, we found that long-term rowing in the senior oarsman is associated with enlarged myocardial wall thickness, a normal systolic function, and a high work capacity.