Sussex Performance Centre

How Long Does It Take To See Results From Working Out?

When you want to see results from your training sessions, you need to put in the work and be patient. But how patient exactly? How long does it actually take to see results from working out?

The reality is, seeing changes to your physical and mental health from working out is both a short- and long-term game. While there’s no doubt you’ll emerge from a HIIT, lifting, or yoga class feeling more amazing than when you first entered, when it comes to actually seeing results from working out—say, increasing your muscle definition, losing weight, or shaving minutes off a half-marathon P.R.—those types of gains definitely won’t happen overnight.

While that answer is hardly a one-size-fits-all situation, there is a general baseline for seeing physical change from exercise (be it increased muscle mass, fat loss, or a lower resting heart rate). 

While seeing results from working out heavily depends on the person and their current level of fitness, you generally see initial changes within four to six weeks, and actual results within eight to 12 weeks.

And, no two people have identical goals when it comes to working out, meaning that the general timeline to see results of any kind (eight to 12 weeks) is pretty malleable. 

How Long It Takes To See Improvements In Aerobic Capacity

Upping your cardiovascular endurance and shaving minutes off your racing time doesn’t just result in a serious self-confidence boost—you’re likely to gain a trove of other health benefits, too. In fact, marathon training can help to decrease stiffness in your arteries and combat high blood pressure, a recent study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found. 

Of course, scoring a new PR and lowering your heart rate a few beats per minute are two very different goals—with varying timelines. If your aim is the latter—to generally boost your cardiovascular health—eight to 12 weeks is a fairly solid period to do so.

This involves a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise three times per week, noting that several other factors—from sleep patterns to even your menstrual cycle—can play a role in your resting heart rate.

The supercharged style of aerobic exercise like interval training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can improve your resting heart rate, possibly even faster. An athlete can typically start to lower their heart rate within a couple of weeks of training. Evidence suggests that interval training is the superior method to do so.

One study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine found that HIIT in particular can have a greater impact on reducing resting heart rate than both MIIT (moderate-intensity interval training) and MICT (moderate-intensity continuous training, like jogging). 

As for an improvement in your speed and endurance, this is usually based on your training history and current fitness level. If you are currently inactive, you can see improvements to your VO2 max capacity within four to six weeks. Depending on the training program, a beginner can be half marathon-ready in roughly 12 to 20 weeks.  

FYI: VO2 max is basically the maximum amount of oxygen your body can consume and deliver to your organs and muscles, according to the American Council on Exercise. The higher your capacity, the longer, and stronger, you’ll be able to engage in cardiovascular exercise.

How Long It Takes to Achieve Weight Loss That’s Sustainable

First thing’s first: The decision to lose weight is a highly personal one. And not everyone is at the same starting point when it comes to shedding pounds. If you have a history of being overweight (or a family member does), have been diagnosed with a hormonal disorder, are experiencing a mental health issue (like depression or anxiety), or are on certain medications, it might be more difficult for you to lose weight.

Extraneous factors preventing weight loss aside, when it comes to weight loss, a calorie deficit still remains king. Basically, in order to lose one to two pounds per week (which is the safe, sustainable rate at which you can effectively shed pounds), you need to create a weekly 2,000 calorie deficit.

As for when that weekly deficit will result in noticeable changes you—and others—can see? While it depends on a number of factors (10 pounds might look different on your average 5’2” woman as opposed to a 6’3” competitive athlete), one 2015 study from Social Psychological and Personality Science found that a 2.93 change in BMI (or body mass index) was what it took to make weight loss (in your face, at least) apparent to others. 

And while *technically* you could create that deficiency through exercise alone, think about it: Although it could take you minutes to consume 300 calories, burning that same amount could take upwards of an hour!

That being said, if there’s one exercise that can considerably boost a weight-loss effort, it’s strength training. A review of studies in the journal Metabolism found that the best way to boost your basal metabolic rate (BMR), or how many calories you’re able to burn at rest, is to have more muscle mass. And the magic ingredient behind increased muscle mass? You guessed it: hitting up the weight room.

How Long It Takes To See Muscle Gains And Strength Increase

Unlike improving your cardiovascular health or losing weight, you might see increased muscle gains from a strength training program after a single session, research has shown. That’s due to a phenomenon called “muscle pump,” which is just a casual term for the increased blood, oxygen, and lactic acid that’s being moved to your muscles during a super-intense lifting session. 

Consider that initial boost in your muscle size a preview of gains to come—which occur roughly six to eight weeks into a strength training program if you’re a beginner, and eight to 12 weeks if you’re more advanced. However, this is going to look different for everyone because there are a lot of factors that play into muscle hypertrophy.

If you’re a beginner, expect to see muscle gains roughly six to eight weeks into a strength training program.

One of the biggest factors in expediting your gains?  Protein. Your daily protein intake plays an important role in muscle growth. We recommend aiming to consume 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day if you really want to make a dent in your muscles. (So, a 150-pound woman would need to consume at least 75 grams of protein per day.)

Read this full article right here from women’s health:

How Many Times a Week Should You Exercise? A Comprehensive Guide
How to Lose Belly Fat: A Scientific Approach
Embracing Fitness After Your 20s: Unlocking Lifelong Energy and Strength
Why Strength Training Can Reduce Chances of Weight Gain During and Post Menopause