This study addresses the potential role of skeletal muscle hexokinase (HK) II in the regulation of glucose uptake and metabolism in vivo. Male rats undertook a single bout of treadmill exercise and were then killed immediately or after a predetermined recovery period. Three muscles [soleus (Sol), gastrocnemius/plantaris (Gc), and white vastus] were excised, and HK II mRNA, GLUT-4 mRNA, total HK (HK I and HK II) and heat-stable HK (predominantly HK I) activities were assessed. Three hours after the cessation of a single bout of exhaustive exercise, HK II mRNA was significantly increased in all three muscles. Ninety or thirty minutes of exercise, with a 3-h recovery, increased Gc HK II mRNA to the same extent as exhaustive exercise, but 15 min of exercise had no effect. Gc HK II mRNA continued to increase up to 8 h after the cessation of 90 min of exercise but returned to basal by 24 h postexercise. In contrast to HK II mRNA, Gc GLUT-4 mRNA was unchanged at 0, 3, 8, and 24 h after the cessation of 90 min of exercise. Total HK activity was significantly increased in Sol and Gc, 8 and 24 h after the cessation of 90 min of exercise. Heat-stable HK activity was unchanged in all three muscles. The increase in total HK activity, inferred to be an increase of HK II, may be important in the persistence of the postexercise increase in insulin action.