How Long Does it Take to Get Fit?

Last week, I heard an advertisement on the radio for the “4-minute gym” which actually made me sigh out loud.  Yet another company is taking advantage of people by promoting a “quick fix” to make money.  So, when I saw an article this week on “How Long Does it Take to Get Fit?” in my ACE (American Council on Exercise) newsletter, I felt that I needed to write on the topic.

As I’m sure we all know (but may refuse to admit), it takes more than “4 minutes a day” to become “fit”.  But how long does it take to see the benefits of a workout routine?  According to Douglas Brooks, an exercise physiologist in California, the answer varies depending on the type of exercise you are doing.

For strength training, individuals will see improvements in the amount of weight that can be lifted within the first four weeks, but will have to wait around 6-7 weeks to see bodily changes.   To see these changes it is recommended to start with 2 sets of 8-10 exercises (one for each major muscle group).  Weight lifting 2 times per week can give 75% of the gains of lifting 3-4 times per week. 

Cardiovascular benefits may take a little longer to achieve.   According to Brooks, it could take 8-12 weeks of doing cardio 2-4 times per week to get significant benefits.  For optimal benefits, it is recommended to exercise for 30-40 minutes 3-4 times per week.  However, beginners should start off with 15-20 minutes, and may want to start of with movement intervals of 20-30 seconds on a recumbent bike or doing water-based exercises.

Don’t be discouraged or intimidated by the numbers above.  Any exercise is going to provide some benefits and is better than nothing.  However, don’t be misled by the companies that promote quick fixes and make false promises.  If it sounds too good to be true…it is!  The key is to find activities you like, start small and build up over time.  It takes some patience and persistence, but the rewards are well worth it.