You're eager to show off the results of your exercise routine. But, how soon you'll notice physical changes depends on your size and fitness level, and on the intensity of your workouts. Sometimes the physical effects of working out daily aren't evident immediately on the outside, but a slew of positive changes are happening inside -- to your heart, lungs, bones, brain and muscles.
How You Exercise Defines Results
How you exercise every day makes an impact on the external effects. For example, a brisk walk for 30 minutes may help you feel better, improve health markers and burn a few extra calories, but it's unlikely to make marked changes in your physique.
On the flip side, if you're working out every day at 100 percent intensity, hoisting heavy weights and doing intense cardio, you may also see delayed results. Intense exercise without rest days in between doesn't give your body time to recover, repair and grow stronger between workouts.
A measured approach that eases you into exercise and alternates light and heavy workout days will bring about the best results. For example, you may plan to lift weights and do a short session of intense cardio on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; do more mild, steady-state cardio on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and make Sunday a light day that involves a brisk walk, mild hike or casual bike ride. A day of rest helps your body recover so you can have quality workouts the rest of the week. A rest day doesn't mean you have to stay in bed, but you take time away from a structured gym routine.
The Types of Results to Expect
How you define "results" also tells you when you'll experience them. If you're exercising to lose weight, you might notice changes within a few weeks. Use exercise, portion control and better food choices to help you create a daily deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories so you lose weight at a safe and healthy rate of about 1 to 2 pounds per week.
You may notice improvements in stamina after just a couple weeks of cardiovascular training. You may feel less winded after climbing a flight of stairs, for example, even if you can't see external physical changes. And, if you want results that give you the ability to run a marathon, it will take several months, or possibly years, to build up the endurance.
Resistance exercise will help you build stronger muscles and bones to improve daily function, manage your weight and improve stamina. You should feel stronger after just a few weeks of beginning a twice-weekly strength-training routine.
Some people use very specific strength-training plans to bulk up -- or add significant muscle mass. When this is your goal, a calculated calorie surplus of 250 to 500 calories per day from quality whole foods such as protein, vegetables and whole grains, as well as lifting heavy weights several times per week, is required. With focused, determined effort, expect to put on about 1/2 pound per week.
Challenge Yourself to See Results From Exercise
A resistance training program produces more noticeable results if you do the exercises consistently and with weights that are challenging enough. When you start out, doing one set of eight to 12 repetitions with light weights or your body weight can help you build strength. Once 12 repetitions becomes doable, increase the amount of weight you're using by 5 to 10 percent to see continued results. You can also perform more sets -- up to two or three.
Working out at the same intensity every day may stall your results over time. Your body becomes accustomed to specific intensity levels, durations of workouts and muscle-building exercises. Change up your routine every four to six weeks to keep results coming. Do your strength exercises in a different order, add new moves or try a new mode of cardio -- such as running instead of the elliptical trainer. Interval training -- alternating short bouts of very-high intensity work with short bouts of moderate-intensity work -- may also promote greater fat loss and cardiovascular development.
Physiological Changes Achieved Through Daily Exercise
Exercise helps improve your heart's efficiency and strength, which enables it to pump blood more readily and with less strain, making your entire body healthier. While you can't visibly observe these effects, maintaining an active lifestyle reduces your chances of developing heart disease by 45 percent. How soon you reap these benefits really depends on your age, health history and size. The older and more compromised your health, the longer it may take, but that doesn't mean you should avoid starting. Exercise, even at a moderate-intensity, can improve health markers in people with existing heart disease. If you have heart disease, though, get your doctor's approval before increasing your exercise.
Regular exercise can also decrease your risk of diabetes, contribute to bone strength and health, discourage certain cancers, improve mental health and enhance daily function. These results are gradual, however, and can't be reaped in a certain number of days or weeks. Your best strategy is to adopt a physically active lifestyle for the long term.