If you’re asking yourself, “Can I get fit in 2 months or sooner?” you might be asking the wrong question. Getting in shape is a process rather than a quick fix. And it requires a clear definition of what “being in shape” means to you.
Why do you want to get in shape or become fit? Is it being able to run a 5K race? A half-marathon? A marathon? To go through an intense strength training workout without breaking a sweat? Or maybe to look ripped?
While fitness experts can measure VO2 max, a measure of cardiorespiratory fitness, body fat, and muscle ratios, getting in shape is subjective.
What is the activity you want to be fit for? If it’s running, that can make it easy to set an achievable benchmark and track your progress every step of the way.
So, how long does it take to get in shape while running? And what happens when you stop working out?
Benefits of Getting in Shape
Getting fit brings with it a wealth of physical and mental benefits beyond looking and feeling good.
Physical activity has many documented health benefits, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among many benefits, here are some you can achieve by getting in shape:
- Lose excess pounds and manage your weight
- Perform daily activities with more ease
- Feel more energized
- Reduce your risk of falls
- Strengthen your bones and muscles
- Lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers
- Better manage chronic health conditions like arthritis or diabetes
- Reduce feelings of anxiety
- Decrease the risk of depression
- Improve sleep quality
- Increase longevity
To reap the benefits of getting in shape, you need to make a long-term commitment. If you’re wondering how to get fit overnight, the answer may disappoint you.
There are no shortcuts to building your fitness. Just like a runner needs time to build the mileage necessary to train for a marathon, so do you.
So, how long does it take to get in shape in a safe and healthy way?
How Long Does It Take to Get in Shape and Start Seeing Results?
A 2004 study investigated whether a 6-week training program improved subjective physical appearance as rated by both participants and a panel of judges.
Participants trained for an average of 34 minutes three times a week. The study found that training for 6 weeks didn’t notably improve appearance scores or fitness levels. Other research supports these findings.
So, how long does it take to see results working out? And how long does it take to get fit?
You can see strength gains and cardiorespiratory performance improvements after 4–6 weeks of training if you start from a sedentary lifestyle. But getting fit usually takes at least several months and even a year.
But what if you’ve already been running or working out? Overall, your current fitness level and training intensity will affect how long it takes to get in shape.
It can speed up the process, but often, you’ll still have to put in at least a few months of regular training to reach your desired fitness level.
Factors to Consider to Get in Shape
For most people, runners included, getting fit means improving five different components of physical fitness through regular training, a healthy diet, and sufficient rest.
Improving some of these elements without the others can lead to imbalances that can decrease your performance and make you more prone to injuries.
Taken together, these components can contribute not just to a good fitness level but also to your well-being. Let’s take a closer look at these five elements, shall we?
This refers to your body’s ability to provide your cells with oxygen and nutrients during physical activity.
A common measure of cardiovascular fitness is the VO2 max test. This test measures how much oxygen you can breathe in during exercise.
A randomized controlled trial found that 9 months of aerobic fitness training improved blood lipid and lipoprotein levels, which reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease.
This fitness component refers to how much force a muscle can produce at maximum effort. You can test this by finding the heaviest weight you can lift for one repetition during an exercise like a bicep curl or bench press.
Muscular strength is different for different muscles. Weight lifting and other types of resistance training can improve your muscular strength in as little as 4 weeks, according to a 2019 study.
This refers to a muscle’s ability to maintain a stationary position or uphold repeated contractions. One way to check your muscular endurance is to do push-ups to failure.
Building muscle endurance often involves high-repetition or long-duration workouts, depending on the muscles worked.
Endurance exercise training expands your blood volume, a process known as hypervolemia. This may help your body regulate its temperature, increase its vascular volume, and reduce heart rates during exercise.
Body flexibility refers to the range of motion in your joints and the ability of muscles to stretch. Having good flexibility makes all forms of training easier and reduces injury risk. Yoga is one of the many excellent ways to improve your flexibility.
Having a lower proportion of body fat and a higher proportion of lean mass improves cardiovascular health and makes you less likely to develop diabetes, according to the latest science.
Good to know: A healthy body fat percentage is around 14–24% for men and 21–31% for women.
Tips to Get in Shape
How you get in shape is just as important as getting there. Going through grueling training and dieting programs isn’t any fun. And chances are you’ll give up on them before reaching the desired results.
Let’s take a closer look at how to get in shape in a safe and healthy way.
- Add to your workout moderate to high-intensity cardio exercises. A 2020 study shows that these exercises, carried out 5 days a week for 30 minutes, can begin to improve your cardiovascular fitness in as little as 4 weeks.
- Exercise for at least 150 minutes a week at a moderate intensity or 75 minutes a week at a high intensity. This is the equivalent of five 30-minute workouts or three 25-minute workouts.
- Follow a high-protein diet and an intense training program to lose fat and gain lean mass. A 2016 study found that this type of diet produces better results than a low-protein diet.
- Include yoga and stretching in your training plan to boost your flexibility. Good joint flexibility is something you can take into all your workouts. Not to mention it can benefit you in everyday life.
- Exercise regularly. A 2007 study investigated the effects of physical activity on sedentary, overweight, or obese women with high blood pressure. It found that regular exercise improved fitness levels and lowered high blood pressure. The women who exercised the most experienced the greatest benefits.
- Follow a personalized training plan. Your age, gender, fitness level, existing medical conditions, and fitness goals are just some of the factors that influence how much you should exercise. A personalized plan helps you get the most out of every minute you spend training.
Lifestyle Adjustments to Achieve Your Fitness Goal
As you work toward your fitness goal, adjusting your lifestyle can support your effort and bring your goal closer. Here are some ideas to inspire you:
- Take the steps instead of the elevator. Climbing steps is a good cardio workout.
- Walk or cycle instead of driving. It’s an effective way to maximize your workout time, especially if you do it at a brisk pace.
- Drink water instead of soda. Water keeps you hydrated and is sugar-free. It’s a simple and healthy way to cut down on calories.
- Get enough sleep. Sleeping for at least 7–8 hours every night helps your body recover after workouts and keeps your mind sharp.
- Chew food slowly. Eating slowly can make you eat less and reduce your calorie intake. This happens because eating slowly increases fullness hormones.
- Track your steps and calories. This helps you keep track of your fitness goals.
Workouts to Get in Shape
The journey to becoming fit is one of many paths. You need to train regularly and at a moderate or higher intensity.
But you can combine many different workouts to get there. In other words, you can have a lot of fun on the way.
Brisk walking and running are all effective forms of cardiovascular exercise as long as you perform them at least at a moderate intensity.
When it comes to running, you want to combine long runs with speed workouts to boost both your endurance and your speed. Hill intervals are demanding, and that makes them effective.
High-intensity interval training that combines a cardio workout with strength training isn’t easy. It speeds up your heart rate and can burn plenty of calories. Add it to your list of workouts, and stick to it for a significant fitness boost.
Resistance training using weights boosts your muscular strength and endurance. Going to the gym a few times a week makes getting in shape easier.
You can also do resistance training at home. A set of adjustable dumbbells can get you a long way, and you can use them as part of all-body resistance training workouts.
Don’t forget cross-training workouts like swimming, cycling, or yoga – these can sustain your fitness goals without stressing your joints.
Getting Out of Shape
Just as getting in shape is a process, so is getting out of shape. A well-known comparative study found that the benefits of endurance training persist even after participants stopped training.
Although VO2 max, a measure of cardiorespiratory fitness, declined with time, participants who trained regularly still had a better VO2 max 84 days after they stopped all training compared to a sedentary group.
A 2011 randomized controlled trial looked at the effects of short-term detraining on young men following a high-intensity bench press training program.
One group trained continuously for 15 weeks, while the other trained for 6 weeks before stopping for 3 weeks and then resuming training.
The study concluded that the 3-week detraining period didn’t inhibit muscle adaptations. Both groups experienced similar results after 15 weeks of training.
Just 9 weeks of strength training can lead to notable improvements in strength in both young and old people, a comparative study suggests.
These benefits begin to decline during detraining, especially after 12 weeks of detraining. But even 31 weeks after completing training, some strength gains last in most people.
So, how long does it take to get back in shape? The exact answer depends on your previous fitness level and new fitness goals.
However, you can expect to see results in as little as a few weeks. If you have gone from active to completely sedentary, give yourself at least a few months to return to shape without pushing your body too hard.
Excited to get fit? Keep these things in mind before you begin your fitness journey:
- You have to define what getting fit means to you – set a realistic fitness goal.
- Combine cardio with strength, resistance, and cross-training for optimal results.
- Watch what you’re eating – a high-protein diet can help you gain lean muscle as you get fit.
- Bring an active mindset to everyday activities to get fit faster – walk, climb steps, and generally move more.
- It can take up to a year to get fit, so be patient.