Unlike calorie restriction, exercise fails to extend maximum life span, but the mechanisms that explain this disparate effect are unknown. We used a 24-wk protocol of treadmill running, weight matching, and pair feeding to compare the effects of exercise and calorie restriction on biomarkers related to aging. This study consisted of young controls, an ad libitum-fed sedentary group, two groups that were weight matched by exercise or 9% calorie restriction, and two groups that were weight matched by 9% calorie restriction + exercise or 18% calorie restriction. After 24 wk, ad libitum-fed sedentary mice were the heaviest and fattest. When weight-matched groups were compared, mice that exercised were leaner than calorie-restricted mice. Ad libitum-fed exercise mice tended to have lower serum IGF-1 than fully-fed controls, but no difference in fasting insulin. Mice that underwent 9% calorie restriction or 9% calorie restriction + exercise, had lower insulin levels; the lowest concentrations of serum insulin and IGF-1 were observed in 18% calorie-restricted mice. Exercise resulted in elevated levels of tissue heat shock proteins, but did not accelerate the accumulation of oxidative damage. Thus, failure of exercise to slow aging in previous studies is not likely the result of increased accrual of oxidative damage and may instead be due to an inability to fully mimic the hormonal and/or metabolic response to calorie restriction. Copyright © 2008 the American Physiological Society.