Studies of human and animal subjects have suggested that exercise may retard aging, help prevent age-related diseases, and prolong life span. Earlier studies focused on the effects of exercise on the heart, skeletal muscles, lungs, metabolism, and longevity. Researchers recently have begun to direct their attention to possible benefits of exercise on the brain. The goals of this study were to examine the effects of voluntary wheel-running exercise on life span, body weight, food and water intake, locomotor performance, and one-trial passive-avoidance memory of mature (10-14 month), middle-aged (20-24 month), and old (28-30 month) C57BL/6J male mice. No significant differences in life span, expressed in months, were found between control and exercised mice when exercise was carried out during maturity, senescence, intermittently across both periods, or continuously throughout maturity and senescence. Exercised adult mice maintained body weight compared to adult controls, an effect not apparent in old mice. Locomotor performance was reduced in old mice, and exercise increased performance much more in adult than in old mice. In the passive avoidance test of recent memory, exercise significantly increased latency, that is, it improved retention, in adult, middle-aged, and old mice. The effect was greatest in middle-aged, next in old, and lowest in adult mice. The findings indicate that exercise may be an important modulator of the rate of aging.