Caloric intake has been suggested as a surrogate measure of physical activity, provided that energy balance is maintained. In this study we assessed caloric intake in relation to other measures of physical activity in a free-living population by a single 24-hr recall in white adult males, ages 22-79 years, examined in 1957-1960 as part of the U.S. Railroad Study. Intake was positively related to leisure time and occupational activity. Men with higher levels of caloric intake had lower exercise test heart rates indicating that they were probably more fit. Caloric intake was also significantly and inversely related to body mass index, the sum of the triceps and subscapular skinfold thickness measurements, blood pressure, and total serum cholesterol. These results suggest that caloric intake, even as measured in a 24-hr dietary recall, is an indicator of physical activity level. Therefore, caloric intake may be a useful indicator of physical activity in some population-based epidemiologic studies.