To evaluate the influence of calcium entry blockade (diltiazem 60 mg qid) on exercise capacity in patients with chronic atrial fibrillation, nine men (mean age 65 years) with atrial fibrillation underwent maximal treadmill exercise on and off diltiazem therapy. Heart rate, blood pressure, and measured ventilatory parameters were assessed at a standard submaximal workload (3.0 mph/0% grade), the gas exchange anaerobic threshold (ATge), and maximal exercise. Significant reductions in heart rate at all stages of exercise were demonstrated: maximum heart rate decreased from 171±30 beats/min to 142±27 beats/min (17 percent, p<.01) and submaximal exercise heart rate decreased from 123±22 beats/min to 96±16 beats/min (22 percent, p<.01). However, there were no significant changes in blood pressure or gas exchange data, ie, oxygen uptake, minute ventilation, or respiratory exchange ratio at any of the exercise workloads. These data demonstrate that in patients with chronic atrial fibrillation, diltiazem controls the ventricular rate response throughout exercise without attenuating blood pressure or exercise capacity.