The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that exercise training improves microvascular function in obese Zucker rats, a model of obesity and type II diabetes. Animals were divided into four age-matched groups: lean sedentary (LS), lean exercise (LE), obese sedentary (OS), and obese exercise (OE). The exercise groups were treadmill-exercised from 5 to 11 wk of age, including a 2-wk acclimation period. Mean arterial pressure (MAP) was not significantly different between any of the groups. The OS had significantly higher mean body weight, blood glucose, insulin, IL-6, and leptin levels compared with the LS, whereas the OE had significantly lower blood glucose, insulin, and IL-6 levels compared with the OS. Functional hyperemia and endothelial-dependent vasodilation were tested in the spinotrapezius muscle using intravital microscopy. Functional hyperemia and acetylcholine (0.1 microM, 1 microM, and 10 microM) responses were significantly attenuated in OS compared with the LS, while the contraction and ACh-induced (1 microM and 10 microM) vasodilation were significantly increased in both LE and OE compared with the sedentary animals. These results suggest that exercise training can improve vascular function in this model of type II diabetes. Moreover, the impaired vasodilation observed in 11-wk-old OZR suggests that the microvascular dysfunction is not likely due to an elevated blood pressure.