To explore the role of mitochondrial activity in the aging process, we have lowered the activity of the electron transport chain and adenosine 5′-triphosphate (ATP) synthase with RNA interference (RNAi) in Caenorhabditis elegans. These perturbations reduced body size and behavioral rates and extended adult life-span. Restoring messenger RNA to near-normal levels during adulthood did not elevate ATP levels and did not correct any of these phenotypes. Conversely, inhibiting respiratory-chain components during adulthood only did not reset behavioral rates and did not affect life-span. Thus, the developing animal appears to contain a regulatory system that monitors mitochondrial activity early in life and, in response, establishes rates of respiration, behavior, and aging that persist during adulthood.