As people age, changes in muscle occur that are associated with a decrease in strength and endurance. These changes result in decreased functional capacity and quality of life. A substantial portion of this decrease is the result not of aging but of the sedentary life-style so frequently associated with aging. In "healthy old" persons and in older animals in experiments, an appropriate exercise program can result in increased strength and endurance. This is true both in longitudinal and short-term studies. As physical impairment increases, the exercise program must be individualized, and results are not as readily predictable. Much work remains before we may be certain how much exercise can be tolerated in these more impaired persons and what the effects may be.