A body plethysmograph was used to measure pulmonary mechanics in six subjects with chronic airflow obstruction during steady states at rest and during exercise at 200 and 400 kpm . min-1. The mean forced expired volume in 1 s was 1.32 liters (39.2% predicted). The flow rates during tidal breathing reached the maximum expiratory flow-volume (MEFV) curve in all but one subject, and on exercise they all reached the MEFV curve. Total lung capacity did not change significantly, but functional residual capacity increased to 104% of the control value (P less than 0.05) and residual volume increased to 113.3% of the control value (P less than 0.02). The MEFV curves did not change and tidal flow rates in excess of th MEFV curve were not seen. Dynamic compliance fell with increasing exercise to 52.8% (P less than 0.01) and static expiratory pulmonary compliance to 90.2% of the control value. Transpulmonary pressures during tidal breathing when expiratory flow reached the MEFV curve increased to progressively higher values as the work load increased. At low work loads there were several subjects with negative transpulmonary pressure when maximum flow rates were present. In patients with chronic airflow obstruction, little change occurs during exercise in pulmonary mechanics; the tidal flow patterns are dominated by the expired flow-volume curve, which is not changed by exercise; maximum flow occurs in some patients when transpulmonary pressure is still negative.