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How long does it take to see results from exercise?

June 2, 2023

We want results and we want them NOW. We live in a world of instant gratification: feeling hungry? No worries, jump on Uber Eats and get food delivered right to your door in 30 minutes. So naturally, when it comes to exercise, the golden question is how long does it take to see results?

I wish I could tell you an exact number, but I can’t because everyone is different and everyone’s body responds differently to exercise. The main thing is to keep moving your body by doing regular physical activity. According to the Physical Activity and Exercise Guidelines, adults should be active most days, preferably every day. Each week, adults should do either:

  • 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity – such as a brisk walk, golf, mowing the lawn or swimming
  • 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity physical activity – such as jogging, aerobics, fast cycling, soccer or netball
  • an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous activities. 

Ok, now the answers you’re all looking for: How long does it take to see results?

Muscle hypertrophy aka strength gains

If you follow a structured program and lift weights regularly, you can see small changes in the first few weeks and as you consistently train, you’ll see a lot more improvements in the months and years to come.

Changes in muscle size from strength training are highly variable – from no difference at all up to roughly 60% increases with a long-term strength training program1.

Weight loss

Exercise is a tool to help with losing weight and avoiding weight gain. If you want to lose weight, it’s important to move your body for at least 30 minutes every day (along with eating in a calorie deficit), whether training in the gym or walking.

A study2 showed 52 obese males lost 7.5kg of body weight over 3 months by exercising 60 minutes a day to burn 700 calories. This study showed that weight loss from increased daily physical activity without reducing calories could substantially reduce obesity and insulin resistance. On the other hand, exercising without the goal of losing weight helps reduce body fat around the tummy and prevents weight gain. 

Cardio fitness

VO2max is the maximum amount of oxygen that you can use during intense or maximal exercise and is used to measure someone’s fitness level. The more cardiovascular endurance training you do, the more efficient you become at delivering oxygen to the working muscles.

Improvements range from 5-30% with a regular, sustained program. Untrained individuals can see improvements of 15-20% in their VO2 max following a 20-week aerobic training program. This allows them to perform an activity (e.g. running) at a higher intensity1.

Mental health

Have you ever felt stressed and decided to exercise or go to the gym anyway? I have! 

Halfway through your session, did you actually forget about how stressed you were because you were too focused on your workout? Me too!

Exercise not only helps you physically but can also improve your mental health and reduce the risk of anxiety and depression. Even a walk can help too! 

Heart rate

Your heart is a muscle and as you get fitter, your heart gets stronger. This lowers your resting heart rate so your heart is getting better at pumping more blood through your muscle. 

Resting heart rate can decrease by up to 1 beat/min in sedentary individuals with each week of aerobic training, at least for a few weeks. Other studies have shown smaller reductions with fewer than 5 beats following up to 20 weeks of aerobic training1.


So to answer your question, how long does it take to see results from exercise?

It depends. Focus on: 

  • Moving your body every day for at least 30 minutes by doing something you enjoy and want to do! You’ll be more likely to stick to it rather than feel like you’re dragging yourself out of the house to do something.
  • Following a structured training program if you want to see results in your strength gains and improve your cardio fitness.
  • Doing exercise for the rest of your life – it’s not a short-term fix that you can just do for 8 weeks and then think you’re set for life. It’ll improve your quality of life, your mental health, help with your sleep, and a whole lot more.   

1. Beresford, H. How long does it actually take to see results from exercise? Exercise Right. 1 January 2023. 

2. Ross R, Dagnone D, Jones PJ, Smith H, Paddags A, Hudson R, Janssen I. Reduction in obesity and related comorbid conditions after diet-induced weight loss or exercise-induced weight loss in men. A randomized, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med. 2000 Jul 18;133(2):92-103. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-133-2-200007180-00008. PMID: 10896648.

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