How long does it take to see the results of exercise?

You’ve recently started a new exercise program. Congratulations!

how long does it take to see the results of exercise

You’re hitting the gym regularly. Cutting back on sugar, alcohol and salty snacks. Drinking lots of water and adding more movement to your day. Yet you can’t see any change to your physique and the scale has barely budged.

You’re probably feeling frustrated, questioning whether you’re on the right program and wondering how long does it take to see the results of exercise?

Sadly, more than a few of you have probably given up because results weren’t apparent quickly enough to provide incentive and generate positive feedback.

Given the headlines that print and online media are constantly shouting at us (“Dream Body in Just 2 Weeks!”, “Drop a Jeans Size in 21 Days!”, “Shed 1 Size in Fourteen Days!”, “Drop 1o Pounds Fast!”, “1-Month Total Body Makeover!”), it’s not surprising that most people have extremely unrealistic expectations about how long it takes to see the results of regular exercise.

And if any of these program REALLY worked, they wouldn’t have to be recycled annually, at the time of year women are most vulnerable to feeling unhappy with their bodies…

If you start an exercise program believing that you’re going to see significant progress in just a few short weeks, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. While you’ll certainly experience a whole host of short term benefits (better sleep, more energy, increased strength, elevated mood, to name but a few), you’re unlikely to notice significant changes to your physique for at least a couple of months.

Yep. I said it. A couple of months (give or take; we all progress at different rates)

How rapidly your body responds to a new exercise program depends on a number of factors including;

  • Your goals. While weight loss can occur almost immediately (a simultaneous change in exercise and diet will almost always result in rapid water loss), improving flexibility, increasing cardiovascular endurance and building muscle all take considerably longer. Don’t expect to make physically noticeable changes for at least a month (and don’t be surprised if it takes upwards of two).
  • Where you’re starting from. If you’re brand new to exercise, you’ll likely notice change more quickly than if you begin at a more advanced level. Similarly, the more weight you have to lose, the more rapidly those first ten pounds will come off. If you have an injury that requires working around, you may find your progress to be a little slower than your able-bodied workout partner.
  • How consistent you are. Obviously, the more consistent your workouts and the closer you adhere to your nutrition plan, the more rapidly you’ll see the results of your labours. Even still, don’t expect to put on more than a pound of muscle each month (if you’re a woman; men can add between 1.5 and 2.5 pounds of muscle every month as a consequence of their higher testosterone levels).
  • The intensity of exercise. If you want to see results, you must exercise at a level of intensity that’s higher than what you’re currently doing. Same effort, same results (or lack there of). There are many different ways to increase the intensity of your workouts, many of which don’t require that you spend hours at the gym.
  • What you’re eating. Many people undermine their gym efforts by making less-than-healthy choices in the kitchen. If you’ve ever watched the calorie count on a cardio machine, you’ll know that it takes much longer to burn 500 calories in the gym than it does to eat them at the local coffee shop. For the fastest results, pair regular exercise with a clean, balanced diet.
  • Whether you’re getting adequate rest. Rest, both between sets and workouts, as well as at night, is vital for proper muscular recovery and hormonal balance. Make the mistake of exercising too frequently or not getting enough sleep and overtraining will keep you from seeing the results of our workouts for much, much longer.
  • Genetics. If your parents and siblings have bodies that are slow to respond to exercise and healthy eating, chances are yours is too. When all else fails, blame mom, right? ;)

Now before you go getting all depressed and cancel your gym membership, remember that stopping and starting an exercise program won’t get you there any faster. Focus on the day-to-day challenges of getting to the gym and making wise nutritional choices and before long, you (and everybody else) will be wowed by the results of your efforts!

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