Exercise is one of the best-known stimulators of adult hippocampal neurogenesis, but it is not known if voluntary changes in the intensity of exercise are accompanied by changes in neurogenesis. In this study we investigated whether a reward influences the performance in a running wheel and the rate of cell proliferation, neuronal differentiation and cell death in C57BL/6 mice. Mice had free access to a running wheel during the first week of the experiment. In the second week, animals were rewarded for their performance and compared to normal voluntary running and control mice. A reward significantly increased the performance by 78% when compared to the non-rewarded performance of the first week. The performance of the non-rewarded runners remained relatively constant. Fourteen days of exercise significantly increased cell proliferation by 27% and the number of doublecortin immunoreactive cells by 46%. A reward and the associated increase of performance did not modulate proliferation, cell death or the number of cells entering the neuronal lineage. We suggest that, in C57BL/6 mice, either exercise increases adult hippocampal neurogenesis to a ceiling value, which is reached by a performance at or below the level achieved by voluntary wheel running, or that a possible positive effect of increased running-wheel activity is balanced by stress resulting from rewarded running, which is no longer performed on a strictly voluntary basis.