Although the importance of exercise as a public health issue is increasingly recognised, little attention has been paid to exercise in very old people. We examined exercise patterns in 1788 subjects aged 70 years and over who were participating in the Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing. In the two weeks before interview, 39 per cent of subjects had taken no exercise and only four per cent had exercised vigorously. When compared with those who took no exercise, exercisers were more likely to be male and younger, to self-report better health, to be former smokers and regular alcohol users. Mortality rates at two years follow-up were inversely related to the level of exercise at baseline. This research indicates that exercise is important for the very old as well as younger groups.