Exercise training improves maximal oxygen uptake and endurance times in adult human beings and other animals. The mechanism of this improvement results in part from anabolic effects of exercise and may be mediated by growth hormone (GH). Little is known about the role of GH in the adaptation to exercise in younger, still-developing organisms. To examine this role, we began a 4-wk treadmill exercise training protocol in 14-d-old female rats. GH was suppressed by passive immunization with anti-GH releasing hormone antisera. There were four experimental groups: 1) GH-control (normal GH secretory capacity), untrained (n = 21); 2) GH-suppressed. untrained (n = 13); 3) GH-control, trained (n = 14); and 4) GH-suppressed; trained (n = 11). At the end of the training period, maximal oxygen uptake and treadmill endurance running time were measured. Serum GH and IGF-I were assessed using RIA, and whole hind limb musculature succinate dehydrogenase (an indicator of mitochondrial function) was measured with standard fluorometric technique. Body weight gain was markedly reduced in GH-suppressed rats (mean, 54% of GH-controls in untrained rats and 55% in trained; p < 0.05). No apparent effect of training on linear growth was observed. As expected, serum IGF-I was markedly reduced by GH suppression, but no exercise-induced increase occurred in IGF-I as a result of training in either the GH-control or GH-suppressed rats. In GH-control rats, maximal oxygen uptake and succinate dehydrogenase were 69% and 25% greater, respectively, in trained compared with untrained rats (p < 0.05). Despite GH inhibition, similar increases were found in the trained GH-suppressed rats (68% greater than controls for maximal oxygen uptake and 34% for succinate dehydrogenase, p < 0.05). Thus, marked improvement in cardiorespiratory function occurs with training in young female rats even when normal pituitary GH function is suppressed.