Low levels of physical activity and the presence of obesity are associated with mitochondrial dysfunction. In addition, mitochondrial dysfunction has been associated with the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Although the evidence for a causal relationship between mitochondrial function and insulin resistance is still weak, emerging evidence indicates that boosting mitochondrial function might be beneficial to patient health. Exercise training is probably the most recognized promoter of mitochondrial function and insulin sensitivity and hence is still regarded as the best strategy to prevent and treat T2DM. Animal data, however, have revealed several new insights into the regulation of mitochondrial metabolism, and novel targets for interventions to boost mitochondrial function have emerged. Importantly, many of these targets seem to be regulated by factors such as nutrition, ambient temperature and circadian rhythms, which provides a basis for nonpharmacological strategies to prevent or treat T2DM in humans. Here, we will review the current evidence that mitochondrial function can be targeted therapeutically to improve insulin sensitivity and to prevent T2DM, focusing mainly on human intervention studies.