Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
31 May

How Long Do I Have to Exercise Before I See Changes?

Short answer: probably a lot longer than you want.

Long answer: I tend to cover a lot of nutrition, food marketing and diet issues, but fitness is also a crucial factor in overall health, so I’m eager to discuss exercise issues in greater detail. Truth is I spend a fair amount of time coaching, speaking and writing in the fitness world, particularly triathlon but weight loss to some extent.

Exercise is a vital component of not just weight loss and weight management, but stress relief, energy, sleep, aging, disease prevention, bone health, and on and on it goes…but it’s easy (and maybe more fun) to exclusively focus on the nutrition and diet issues and forget that we have to move our lazy buns once in a while. Leaving exercise out of the wellness equation is far more destructive to your health than any number of diet “sins” you might commit. Notwithstanding the fact that I believe our standard American diet is largely responsible for most of our health problems and most common causes of death, the importance of exercise cannot be overstated.

We don’t exercise for many reasons.

Eating is not a habit, but a necessity. After all, no one really forgets to eat for very long. And it’s usually rather enjoyable to change food selections and to modify our diets for the better, for we get immediate psychological rewards: control, accomplishment, tangibility. Exercise is also a necessity, but as it’s no longer integral to our daily lives – few people plow an acre of sod nowadays – it feels like a chore. No one likes a chore, and establishing a chore as an ingrained habit is tough. Life’s rewards require elbow grease, and that will never change. If exercise were easy or yielded quick results, I suppose everyone would be doing it. Exercise is certainly worth the effort, and not in spite of the challenge, but because it is a challenge. The long-term health rewards of exercise – outside of the brief blast of endorphins following your workout – are not always initially apparent and certainly not immediate.

If we don’t view exercise as an unpleasant chore, we view it as a means to an end: getting a leaner or sexier body. Those fitness infomercials feature guys with six-packs and Christie Brinkley for a reason – we all want to look like that. But the reality is that even the fittest folks are not necessarily going to end up looking “like that”. You can only maximize what you’ve got. I believe that we have to stop thinking of exercise as a vanity tool and remember that it’s simply a basic necessity of life. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be excited about using exercise to lose weight if you hope to shed some extra pounds. But we fall off the proverbial treadmill over and over again because we’re getting on it for the wrong reasons in the first place – exercise is about far more than weight loss.

So, how long before you see results?

You really can’t fight your genes. I witnessed one young woman I coach become sleek and toned after seemingly two sessions with weights and a few rounds of yoga – it’s easier when you’re young, of course. Another guy I work with exercises day in, day out, and has for two years now; although he’s fit and lean, he will never look like Bruce Lee no matter how hard he tries. (It’s worth noting that if you start your children on exercise – such as a sport – from an early age, they’ll develop muscles that will stay with them for a lifetime, even if they gain a little weight down the road as we all tend to do.)

There is some justice: the longer you exercise, the easier it will be to make changes to your shape. That said, results are different for everyone. It’s a complex equation of existing muscles, your natural build, metabolism, fat distribution and many other factors. You actually do get an immediate health boost from exercise, but let’s be honest: how many are really after that? Most of us give up on exercise after a few weeks or even a few days because we don’t see the desired physical results. People like the aforementioned young lady are rare; most of us have to put in months before seeing any real improvement.

The point is, if you’re asking that question – how long before I see results – the answer is almost always: much longer than you want. Hang in there; change will happen. We all want to look good, and many of us want or need to lose weight. Those are healthy and admirable goals. But while exercise can and does help with these goals, at the end of the day, we’ve got to realign our thinking and remember that exercise, more than anything, is just a necessity for health, and despite what the marketers would have us feel, that is reason enough.

Please share your thoughts on exercise, your challenges, and your successes, with me in the forum. I’d love to hear your perspective.

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Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I got comfortable after I got married, and like others, started cooking a lot, eating worse, etc. Then, I had two children in 3 years. I am now to the point where I need to get in shape so I can be comfortable, confident, and healthy for my family. I’m only 28 but I’ve got 50lbs to lose. People are right when they say you have to watch your diet and exercise. My physician suggested I download a calorie counting app on my phone. I downloaded “Lose It!” and it is amazing. I never realized how bad I actually ate. No wonder I got fat! This app is great because it guides you to weight loss and helps you track your calories and exercises. In the first two weeks, only working out once, I lost 10.6lbs! And that was from simply logging my calories. It’s easier than I thought it would be becasue the database of foods is pretty extensive so you can estimate the calories. There is also a barcode scanner that is pretty cool because you scan your food item and it brings up the nutrition info. You can also put in ingredients and get the calories of a recipe. I work in healthcare and there is a scale outside my office. I weigh myself every morning, which may seem a bit excessive, but I track that daily as well. It’s become a game for me, to see how I can improve my eating habits to keep the calories low while filling me up and to log in my exercise data and see how that affects my daily stats. It’s exciting and encouraging to monitor it. It may not be for everyone but I’m the type of person who decides to accomplish something and goes full force to meet that goal. I am on week three and even if the weight loss isn’t going to be as great this week, I know I did good by working out for 30m-2h five times this week. I’m very optimistic that I am going to be the slim, healthy mommy I want to be! Best of luck to you all!

    Carly wrote on May 3rd, 2012
  2. Hi there….for me it took a long time…many many months of sweating at the gym. 3-4 days kickboxing, 1-2 days spinning, 2 days strength, 2 days pilates and 2 days yoga per week. The strength and yoga made a huge difference in muscle tone, and getting lean. For me I need to do at least 45 mins of cardio, and/or interval training to even start to see results. Don’t rely too much on the scale – I eventually got back to my high school size, but weighed about 12-15 lbs more – go figure! But I sure am much much stronger than I was as a teenager, that’s for sure. Also eat well – too few calories will also sabotage your weight loss goals. Good luck, and stick it out – it’ll be worth it!

    tara wrote on June 14th, 2012
  3. What a pointless article.

    You wrote on July 10th, 2012
  4. Ladies, it’s not about losing weight. So stop focusing on that!!! Even if you’re working out & eating healthy… If you’re only losing around 3-5 pounds a month, that’s okay. Have you noticed how your body looks? That you could be toning up, losing fat, & gaining muscle. I’m sure of you’re doing all the right things, that y’all look fine.

    Kelly Barker wrote on July 16th, 2012
  5. Here are a few factors that have a major effect on how easily you will be able to lose weight

    1. Portion size – make sure you don’t eat too large meals. Even if you feel hungry after eating dinner you may have eaten too much, and this is because your stomach has stretched from overeating. Try reducing your meal sizes, count to 20 with every bite and try and feel when your stomach is filling.

    2. Calorie Intake – along with a smaller portion size, your meals need to be foods that are not overly high energy and packed with carbs and kilojoules. Things like sources are hidden calories, and this can be why pasta is dangerous to weight loss.

    3. Exercise – Once you have corrected your diet, simply exercise for 30-60 mins a day, varying the exercise you do. Over time you will almost certainly see results. By varying the type of exercise you do you body shape will be more desirable (as much as you can control your body shape). For example if you do swimming constantly you will broaden your shoulders, running and cycling builds calves and thighs and weights can build your arms. So by varying you may not have to build muscle and can just tone and will also have a more proportional body shape.

    4. Sleep – without sleep, you will not function properly. You will have no motivation to do anything and will therefore probably eat more out of boredom also. Without sleep you will find yourself becoming ill much more regularly and this will deter weight loss.

    5. Consistency – Its true, you reap what you sow. DOn’t expect to see results when you’re not actually exercising every day or not eating healthily every day. Set yourself reasonable goals and stick to them. Perhaps try exercising everyday for a week without fail and then when you make a week, double it, then after two weeks push yourself to 3. You’ll find yourself not wanting to give up, after you’ve already put in so much effort and time.

    6. Double think everything- don’t make irrational decisions when trying to lose weight. Take a second look at your plate – do you really need that much? Before you finish at the gym think to yourself – i am puffed, do my legs feel like jelly, is my pulse beating through my forehead? If not, keep going, you haven’t pushed yourself hard enough. And when you’re thinking “oh, i couldn’t be bothered today” have an argument with yourself until you come to the conclusion that if you don’t do it now, you acutally never will.

    7. A few inspiration quotes that never fail to motivate me:

    – You are so much stronger than you think (really messes with your head)

    – “Instead of the temporary pleasure of eating for seconds, wouldn’t you rather feel amazing for an entire day?”

    8. Be honest with yourself- theres not point in telling yourself its ok to eat that chocolate icecream, because you’re only hurting yourself. Put it down, if you’re worried about eating it, you shouldn’t eat it. It really is going straight to your butt and thighs.

    9. Don’t yo-yo – theres nothing worse for you than yo-yo dieting. Yo-yo dieting is going on a strict diet for two weeks, giving up for a week, over an over again. You end up fatter than a house and extremely unhealthy. Rather, instead of dieting at all, make it a lifestyle change. Permanately change from full cream milk to skinny. Tell yourself (even if its not completely true), that you want to be healthy as well as lose weight and suddenly it won’t all seem like you’ve put yourself into a junk free, exercise hell.

    10. Fad diets are stupid – some of them may work for a rare few that are able to persist with it. However you can’t stick to an all meat dukan diet for very long realistically and when you come off it, you’re going to gain weight. Also when particiapting in a fad diet, you don’t gain all of the necessary nutrients that you need. So for all of you realists don’t do it. Seen an article about the new fad diet? Don’t bother even trying it. Simply lead a healthy lifestyle, with small portions of healthy food and incorporating exercise into your routine – daily!

    11. Advertise – I don’t know about you, but I’m a rather competition being. Tell people you’re going to lose weight, and you’ll be more likely to stick by your word and persist until you actually have the results to flaunt. Trust me – people will be impressed! :)

    Gabby wrote on July 19th, 2012
  6. Hi guys!

    I would really appreciate it if someone took the time to read this and maybe offer some insight. I am 24yr 5’5”(165cm) and 132lbs(57kg). I don’t want to lose weight and honestly im happy with my body, but we all know there is always room for improvement right? My purpose is to get a toned up body, more athletic with more defined muscles(i.e abs, arms, legs, butt) so i joined the gym and for 3months now i go 4-5times a week for 2hrs.

    However, now 3months later i have gained 3kg(6lbs) which im guessing is muscle weight. I absolutely don’t want to bulk up or gain muscles cos im not a guy! I just want my current non visible muscles to be more exercised and visible(i sound so stupid, but i just want you to understand what im trying to achieve). I just want to convert my softness into strength and look still lean but exercised! My body fat was 19-20% which they told me its normal so if that could be transformed into muscle instead of my current muscles getting bigger, that would be fantastic!!!

    I do notice change of course its not all negative, my abs show more and my arms and legs are more toned. Im happier more energetic and definitely stronger, but i feel like my muscles are bulkier too, especially my arms since i genetically have a more defined upper body. Another thing i have noticed is that i get extremely hungry after every work out and generally since i started the gym my appetite has increased tremendously! I do however restrain myself not to eat more than i should, but it is a struggle!

    If you have managed to read up to here, then i salute you! My questions are, what am i supposed to do to achieve a lean but defined body instead of gaining muscles weight? Any diet suggestions, what to avoid or eat more? Maybe i should quit the gym and join some sport instead, like Kickboxing or maybe Pilates? Maybe change my routine work out? I am really lost at the moment so any advise would be greatly appreciated :)

    Thank you in advance everyone!

    Maya wrote on July 20th, 2012
  7. I quit smoking 8 months ago and started working out . I work out 5 times a week am doing fitness classes hour long. I count calories and keep track of how much sodium I get etc. ive gained 15 lbs and cannot drop it. What else can I do??

    Ab wrote on July 22nd, 2012
    • What I noticed is that I was using the wrong numbers.Use your base metabolic rate , that is what your body uses to run your organs in complete rest,as your reference point and deduct calories from that.Working out is fine and it is supposed to help.5 times weight training is bad for your muscles they need rest to rebuild and grow but 30 minutes of cardio 5 days a week is good.But the main thing should be cutting calories that is really the only way you are going to lose weight.Also drink water 2liters a day and eat three pieces of fruit a day. This is to trick your body into thinking everything is fine and there is no hunger winter coming.

      Roland wrote on August 20th, 2012
  8. I saw results 2 weeks into weight training but not in the sense I turned into Arnold or lost fat. But I started noticing a muscle in my bicep i never seen before,after about 4 weeks seperations started to become visible between the tricep and bicep, my quads started to get more definition in my upper leg I could sense them being “pumped” after working out which was a nice feeling like they are swollen.It’s these little things that motivate you to keep going. Building a physique like Arnold takes years probably at least 5 of intense weight training depending on where you are at.But you can get nice results after about a year of intense training and eating the right food.Getting that body fat low.Many muscles are covered in lard. Abs are the hardest muscles to make visible because males tend to store fat around there belly. The trick to having them is to have very low body fat percentage.Working out your abs is fine but you already have them just not visible.

    Roland wrote on August 20th, 2012
    • I forgot something important , most say that the max you should go below your daily energy needs is 10%. Otherwise you risk losing muscle.You won’t lose fat as fast but you will still grow muscle.Also the fat that annoys you the most the belly fat the double chin that is going to come off last your whole body will be tight but your chin and belly will still be fat.It’s annoying but the body burns the last deposited fat stores first.

      Roland wrote on August 20th, 2012
  9. hi, i know you cant begin to make an assessment without seeing or knowing me, but i was wondering how long it would take to see changes if i exercise twice a week on weights. im 21, pretty lean and just shy of 11 stone

    sam wrote on September 5th, 2012
  10. I was looking for the QUICK answer to that question and it was most frustrating to have to read All that crap in between. I hate the way you answered. It was a lecture!

    Joyce wrote on October 25th, 2012
  11. I totally agree, it is the carbs that make you fat not the fat, people often say ‘oh this is fat free’ without realising it is full of carbs and sugar. Your body stores carbs and sugar as fat. Or if you have carbs in you your body will use these as energy in the gym, with less carbs in you your body will turn to fat storage for energy. Also. take a lil caffiene before your workout, it speeds metabolism and helps you work harder :)

    Maxine wrote on November 6th, 2012
  12. I have joined bootcamp/semi cross fit since november of 2012. I started at 130lb and now I’m at 139. My body fat stays the same or a little bit less. I eat mainly low carb/paleo. However, I noticed that I eat a lot of fruits and crave a lot of fruits since starting exercising. I go to bootcamp 3 days a week. My clothes fit well, but I still can’t fit in my size 2-4 jeans (of course). But my size 6 jeans fit well and have room to move. I’m just impatient because I want to be back at 115-120 lbs but now I’m at 139lbs. I know that it must be my lean muscle weight but the number is a bit scary to me. I’m thinking of going back to do straight low carb withholding fruits for couple of weeks (basically first phase of Atkins or Southbeach diet). Do you think that if I cut the fruits, and stay mainly low carb for awhile, I will lose weight or my weight will continue to increase? Should I also exercise on the days that I don’t do bootcamp? Right now my exercise routine only involved bootcamp on TThand Saturday. I should perhaps get on the elliptical on M and W. I’ll exercise for a total of 5 days a week and have 2 days of rest. Will this routine help me lose weight and back down to 120? I feel like I’m confusing everyone including myself >_<

    Stacy wrote on January 20th, 2013
  13. Hi there. I started working out 3 months ago and have not yet seen weight reduction.

    My work out regimen is 6 days a week. I do Cardio in the morning for an hour and a half. Then I hit the weight room for an hour and then I go swimming for an hour. I walk from and to the gym 1 hour walk. And I walk in the morning at 5 am for an hour. So that’s around 20 something hours of workout a week. More then needed.

    I eat healthy as well. Morning for breakfast I have fruit, 1 slice of bread, tea no sugar, milk. Lunch I have a salad or soup. Dinner I stick with fish or chicken breast and some greens on the side. Snack after workout I have a banana or yogurt once or twice a day.

    I weigh 205 pounds height 5′ 5″ and I’m really getting annoyed and impatient to not seeing results in the scale. I do feel healthier and my sleeping has gotten better I sleep around 7-8 hours a night.

    So what on earth is wrong with my system. I’m eating enough calories. 1500-1700 calories a day and no results.

    Please help getting really impatient here.

    sarah wrote on February 27th, 2013
  14. It may help if you join an online group like,this one is free. It’s a community that will provide you support of all sorts, such as: Contact with a group of people to help provide emotional support – tasty recipes that promote a healthy diet – exercise programs – tracking of food, exercises and/or weight lose. I would most especially recommend that you measure with a tape measure, no more than once a week, those areas of the body that you are trying to make a change in. This way you will see the small changes going on. No one has mentioned that muscle weighs more than fat, so the first few months of exercise may cause a weight gain until that new muscle begins to burn off the fat. Don’t forget that there will be those monthly changes that cause bloating, so don’t let those days discourage you. Lots of support and blessings.

    Rene K. wrote on August 22nd, 2013
  15. Hi I weigh 80 kilos and have been suffering with menopause for the last 3 years.

    I suffer with a swollen tummy, and have been putting on weight around hips and thighs.

    I was walking on my treadmill for 1 hour a day at 5.4 km speed, I cant raise my treadmill, so I can only walk flat. I did this for about 2 months, I then started to get
    bad anxiety, so I reduced my time on the treadmill to 30 mins, 4 times a week, along with a 20 min work out on my exercise bike that has programs for riding up hills. I also do 30 push ups & 60 sit ups and also use a rowing machine for 5 mins.

    I have been doing this now for 3 months and have only just beginning to see a change in the way my clothes fit, but when I weigh myself I don’t see much of a change at all, but my scales are old so they may not be very accurate.

    Tell me, are I waisting my time while I am going through menopause, and is there
    a special diet of some kind that might help me to loose weight while suffering with menopause?

    Please help me? very desperate to shed some kilos, and to improve my cholesterol levels.


    Robyn Gee wrote on October 8th, 2013
  16. Ever since I got pregnant I cannot lose the last fifteen lbs and losing weight has never been so hard ever. I have been going to the gym for two months now 5 days a week for an hour I take a studio cycling class 2 to 3 times a week and do weights 2 or 3 times a week for a total of 5 hours a week. I have not lost a lb and see no changes in my body. I actually feel like I look bigger and the scale has not moved. It is really disappointing to me because it used to be easy. It makes me feel like I want to give up. Or Is it just all gonna drop off one day. I keep pushing but come on I want so results here. Any suggestions?

    Two months so far wrote on November 20th, 2013
  17. Hi there, I enjoy reading all of your article. I wanted
    to write a little comment to support you.

    zoe voss wrote on May 15th, 2014
  18. I have started one week ago. from not being able to tie my own shoes to riding exercise bike one hour every morning, and light weight training plus abs and calves every day… I eat all proteins to rid the gas from veggies I put tsp of ginger in my morning tea. before gym I have warm lemon water, pineapple and prune juice. After is oatmeal with handful of nuts and 1cup fruit.. or two eggs two sausage patty with cup of mango. only 380 calories snack fiber bar 90 cal lunch a kale and spinach topped with 4oz turkey and 1/2 cup black eyed peas 1/2 cup red beans, banana peppers and two TBS greek yogurt and vinegar 350 cal. snack almond covered in dark chocolate 90 cal. dinner whole grain English muffin with kale mango and chicken side of fruit 420 cal water water and three cups hot tea per day. I have lost 16 lbs and two pan sizes… Am never hungry and feel better than I’ve ever felt.. If this helps any one. I’ve got 175lbs bone and muscle if add 25 lbs of fat I only have 80lbs to go.

    Lori wrote on March 14th, 2015
  19. I like reading through a post that can make people think.
    Also, many thanks for allowing me to comment!

    Lifting Competitions wrote on February 5th, 2016
  20. Most useless post ever

    i wanted to hear monts wrote on April 1st, 2016

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