In this study the energy cost of level walking was measured in 23 patients with stationary spastic paresis before and after a two-week treatment (45 min daily) of hydro-kinesi therapy, the latter consisting of passive and active movements in warm (32 degrees C) sea water, free swimming and water immersion walking. Among the subjects (80.2 +/- 13.2 kg body mass; 56.0 +/- 14.6 years of age; 10.7 +/- 6.6 years of duration of spasticity), 12 were affected by hemiparesis, 4 by multiple sclerosis and 7 by spinal cord injury. The energy cost of level walking (Cw) was measured before and after therapy from the ratio of the overall steady-state oxygen consumption to the effective speed of progression. The differences in Cw due to the treatment, at matched speeds, were found to be negligible at speeds higher than 0.75 m.s-1 (less than 5%) but to increase, with decreasing speed, up to about 17% at 0.1 m.s-1. The treatment was therefore effective in improving the gait characteristics of the subjects, through a decrease of their Cw, mainly at low speeds of progression.