The purpose of this study was to investigate the acute effects of exercise on plasma high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and to determine whether the magnitude of this response would be affected by the intensity of the exercise. Twelve men (19–41 yr) ran an equivalent distance (9–12 km) on a treadmill on two separate occasions. On one occasion the exercise was performed at a speed that elicited 60% of the subject's maximal O2 uptake (VO2max), and on the other occasion exercise was performed at a speed that elicited 90% of VO2max. Changes in total cholesterol, triglycerides (TG), HDL-C, HDL apoprotein A (HDL-A), HDL saturation, lactate (LA), and free fatty acids (FFA) were measured during the course of each run, and all values were corrected for changes in plasma volume as indicated by hematocrit. There were significant increases (P less than 0.01) in HDL-C, HDL-A, and HDL saturation with exercise at both intensities, but greater increases in HDL-C (25 vs. 14%) and HDL-A (18 vs. 8%) were observed with the higher intensity exercise. Plasma FFA and TG did not differ between conditions, but LA concentrations rose significantly during the high-intensity exercise. These results indicate that increases in HDL components can occur with a relatively moderate exercise session and that the magnitude of these increases are directly related to the exercise intensity.