The sympathetic nervous system contributes to resting metabolic rate (RMR) via beta-adrenergic receptor (beta-AR) stimulation of energy metabolism. RMR and beta-AR support of RMR are greater in habitually exercising compared with sedentary older adults possibly due to greater energy flux (magnitude of energy intake and energy expenditure during energy balance). In 10 older adults regularly performing aerobic endurance exercise (mean +/- se, 66 +/- 1 yr) compared with baseline, a reduction in energy flux (via abstention of exercise and proportional reduction in dietary intake) decreased (P < 0.05) energy expenditure (7746 +/- 440 vs. 9630 +/- 662 kJ.d(-1)), caloric intake (7808 +/- 431 vs. 9433 +/- 528 kJ.d(-1)), RMR (5192 +/- 167 vs. 5401 +/- 209 kJ.d(-1)), and skeletal muscle sympathetic nervous system activity (36 +/- 2 vs. 42 +/- 2 bursts.min(-1)). Significant beta-AR support of RMR was observed at baseline (167 +/- 42 kJ.d(-1)) but not during reduced energy flux. The change in RMR from baseline to reduced energy flux was related to the corresponding change in beta-AR support of RMR (r = 0.77, P = 0.009). No changes were observed in seven time controls (69 +/- 3 yr) who maintained energy flux. High energy flux is a key mechanism contributing to the elevated RMR and beta-AR support of RMR in habitually exercising older adults. Maintenance of high energy flux via regular exercise may be an effective strategy for maintaining energy expenditure and preventing age-associated obesity.