The acute (single bout of exercise) and chronic (exercise training) effects of exercise on plasma leptin were investigated in 97 sedentary adult men (n = 51) and women (n = 46) participating in the HERITAGE Family Study. Exercise training consisted of a standardized 20-wk endurance training program performed in the laboratory on a computer-controlled cycle ergometer. Maximal oxygen uptake, body composition assessed by hydrostatic weighing, and fasting insulin level were also measured before and after training. Pre- and posttraining blood samples were obtained before and after completion of a maximal exercise test on the cycle ergometer. Exercise training resulted in significant changes in maximal oxygen uptake (increase in both genders) and body composition (reduction of fat mass in men and increase in fat-free mass in women). There were considerable interindividual differences in the leptin response to acute and chronic effects of exercise, some individuals showing either increase or reduction in leptin, others showing almost no change. On average, leptin levels were not acutely affected by exercise. After endurance training was completed, leptin levels decreased significantly in men (from 4.6 to 3.9 ng/ml; P = 0.004) but not in women. However, after the training-induced changes in body fat mass were accounted for, the effects of exercise training were no longer significant. Most of the variation observed in leptin levels after acute exercise or endurance training appears to be within the confidence intervals of the leptin assay. We conclude that there are no meaningful acute or chronic effects of exercise, independent of the amount of body fat, on leptin levels in humans.