Adenosine 5'-monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) now appears to be a metabolic master switch, phosphorylating key target proteins that control flux through metabolic pathways of hepatic ketogenesis, cholesterol synthesis, lipogenesis, and triglyceride synthesis, adipocyte lipolysis, and skeletal muscle fatty acid oxidation. Recent evidence also implicates AMPK as being responsible for mediating the stimulation of glucose uptake induced by muscle contraction. In addition, the secretion of insulin by insulin secreting (INS-1) cells in culture is modulated by AMPK activation. The net effect of AMPK activation is stimulation of hepatic fatty acid oxidation and ketogenesis, inhibition of cholesterol synthesis, lipogenesis, and triglyceride synthesis, inhibition of adipocyte lipolysis and lipogenesis, stimulation of skeletal muscle fatty acid oxidation and muscle glucose uptake, and modulation of insulin secretion by pancreatic beta-cells. In skeletal muscle, AMPK is activated by contraction. Type 2 diabetes mellitus is likely to be a disease of numerous etiologies. However, defects or disuse (due to a sedentary lifestyle) of the AMPK signaling system would be predicted to result in many of the metabolic perturbations observed in Type 2 diabetes mellitus. Increased recruitment of the AMPK signaling system, either by exercise or pharmaceutical activators, may be effective in correcting insulin resistance in patients with forms of impaired glucose tolerance and Type 2 diabetes resulting from defects in the insulin signaling cascade.