The purpose of this study was to obtain information regarding the effects of exercise on longevity in rats. The exercise used was voluntary activity wheel running. The runners gradually decreased their running from approximately 4 to approximately 1 mile/day as they aged from 9 to 30 mo. The runners lived slightly but significantly longer than sedentary freely eating controls and sedentary pair-fed controls (1,012 +/- 138 vs. 923 +/- 160 and 928 +/- 186 days) but significantly less long than food-restricted paired-weight sedentary controls (1,113 +/- 150 days). Although the exercise improved survival, it did not result in an extension of life-span. In contrast, the food-restricted paired-weight sedentary rats showed a true increase in life-span. The paired-weight rats also had a significantly reduced incidence of malignancies compared with the other three groups. However, there was no significant difference between the runners and the freely eating or pair-fed sedentary controls in the cause of death. These results provide evidence that exercise improves survival but does not result in an extension of life-span in rats.