The aim of this study was to test the effects of age and chronic exercise training on antioxidant and heat shock protein (Hsp) expression by comparing the hearts of young (Y), sedentary old (SO) and trained old (TO) rats. In SO rats, there were: (a) changes in myocardial structure and function; (b) increased malondialdehyde levels; (c) no changes in superoxide-dismutase (SOD) enzymes; (d) reduced Hsp70 expression; and (e) increased Hsp27 expression. In TO rats, SOD enzymes and Hsp70 expression were increased and Hsp27 was further increased. Malondialdehyde level did not differ between TO and SO rats, which shows that chronic exercise did not affect the peroxidation index. In summary, by increasing Hsp27 and Hs70 levels, prolonged exercise partially counterbalanced the heart age-related effects in the antioxidant system without altering peroxidation levels. These findings suggest that the beneficial effects on aged-related cardiovascular changes could be connected to the "anti-oxidant" effects of prolonged exercise training.