When you start a new training program, whether you’re beginning a new running plan for health reasons, adding strength training into your current regime to build muscle or increasing your mileage in hopes of lowering your PB, it takes time to see progress. But exactly how long does that process take? The answer to that depends on what type of improvements you’re looking for, but regardless, it will take time and patience.
Heart rate and blood pressure
As you get fitter your heart gets stronger, which allows it to pump more blood with every beat. This, in turn, leads to a reduction in your resting heart rate. Some research shows that when sedentary individuals begin a new exercise regime, their heart rate can decrease by up to one beat per minute per week, but this may not be the case for everyone. Reductions in heart rate can be highly variable, and for some, it may take up to a couple of months before they see any significant reductions in their resting heart rate.
If your blood pressure is already within a healthy range, you likely won’t see any significant reductions when you start a regular exercise routine. For those who do struggle with high blood pressure, studies show that regular, moderate exercise can reduce systolic blood pressure by approximately 4 mmHg. This is significant because research shows a drop of 5 mmHg can reduce your risk of death by stroke by up to 14 per cent.
When it comes to speed and endurance, your rate of improvement will depend on your current fitness level. If you’re just starting a new running routine and were previously inactive, you can see improvements in your cardiorespiratory fitness within four to six weeks. If you’ve been running for a while and you’re trying to get faster, it may be a few months before you see any noticeable gains. As you get fitter, those improvements will likely happen in smaller and smaller increments as well. When you first start running you may be aiming to knock minutes off your times, and as you continue in the sport those minutes will often become seconds.
Muscle and strength gains
If you’re looking for more immediate gratification, the gym is the place to go. According to some research, it’s possible to see muscle gains after just a single session of strength training. This is due to a phenomenon known as “muscle pump,” which is just an increase of blood flow to your muscles, and while it’s only temporary, it does make you feel like you’ve accomplished something when you leave the weight room.
To see actual, sustained muscle and strength gains, beginners should expect to wait roughly six to eight weeks, while more experienced weight lifters may take upwards of 12 weeks after starting a new program. It’s important to note, however, that muscle growth is highly variable depending on the individual. Some body types tend to put on muscle more quickly than others, so if you don’t see any gains right away, have patience.
The great news is, while physical changes are a little slower to appear, you can experience the mental health benefits of regular exercise almost instantly. The key is to start off with an amount that’s manageable for your current fitness level so you can enjoy it, rather than suffer through it.