Changes you'll see within weeks of starting exercise Changes you'll see within weeks of starting exercise

Seeing improvements in fitness is a real confidence booster,” says Lucinda Burr, a Fernwood PT of the Year finalist who has seen some incredible changes in people as a trainer at Fernwood Carindale.

“One girl who I first started training five-plus years ago was a bit overweight, drank like a fish and even smoked socially. She got into the gym and started doing cardio and weights and now she’s a ripped machine who does the Spartan Ultra-Beast [a 42-kilometre obstacle course],” Burr recalls. “She’d be one of the fittest women at our gym, for sure.”

Embarking on a healthy exercise and eating lifestyle is transformative, not only for your outward appearance, but your inner health, mindset and long-term wellbeing. But it’s important to get the balance right.

“You’ll be a much more positive person [but] without the exercise, healthy diet and healthy mindset, it really just doesn’t work,” says nutritionist Elita Massarotti. “You’ve really got to have all that balanced.”

When the combination is right, though, beautiful things can happen …


Within an hour of starting a workout you are doing your body good, and feeling it, as happy hormones dopamine and serotonin kick in. Not to mention the heady joy stimulated by endorphins pulsing through your veins – you’ll want another taste of those.

After just one workout, your body’s engine is already running more smoothly as you flush oxygen through your lungs and muscles. “You start to feel better and more positive about yourself from taking that first step,” says Burr. “In a weights workout, you’ll start to see definition in the arms and shoulders. It’s blood and fluid going into the muscle – it’s a nice look when you look in the mirror.”

24–36 Hours

Strength training, in particular, fires up the metabolism, even after you’ve stopped working out. Give yourself a day off before your next bout of exercise and you’ll still receive ongoing metabolic effects. And if you persist, you can become a fat burning machine. “The more lean muscle you have, the more kilojoules you can burn,” says Burr.

1–2 Weeks

By now you have more energy, feel happier, cleansed, less bloated, and you’re reading your body’s signals around hunger. “Quite an overweight or obese person may not have had a healthy diet or fibre going through their digestive system,” says Massarotti. “Some people have never actually felt true hunger [as in] ‘Oh, my body’s hungry, I need my next meal or snack’. Some people have never experienced that.”

If your diet has been high in sugar, you may experience some withdrawal headaches, but they should disappear within a week.

Your clothes are fitting better. You’re stronger and able to progress to heavier weights.

3 Weeks

The magic number for breaking a habit is 21 days, so with three weeks of dedicated effort, you’re well on your way to changing things for good. “This is when the biggest change happens – this is your new lifestyle and you don’t want to undo all the work you’re doing. It’s a turning point when you realise you’re going to keep doing it,” says Burr.

4 Weeks

Cardiovascular gains are kicking in, and your muscles have adapted to your training program. Now is the time to switch things up and prevent a plateau in results. “Four weeks is enough to see the progression and make some gains. It’s also when we get used to what we’re doing, so it’s less effective. We’ll still use the same muscle groups, but a different way of going about it will shock the body,” says Burr. “Your clothes will be looser and you’ll start to see a bit of thinning around the face, one of the first places it comes off,” adds Massarotti.

8 Weeks

Learn to accept a compliment, because the combination of fat loss and building muscle will bring plenty of positive attention. “Depending on how hard you’re training, you’ll probably start to see lines of muscle. You could be a dress size down, depending on body shape and starting weight,” says Massarotti.

“Eight weeks is around the time when other people start to notice you’ve lost weight and have some muscle definition. What you’ve built in the first four weeks will continue to get better and better,” adds Burr.

12 Weeks

It’s not uncommon to have dropped 10 or more kilograms by now. The positive habits you’ve been cultivating are second nature. “Doing your grocery shopping and snacking healthily and cooking your meals at night will become the norm,” says Massarotti. “At 12 weeks, everyone will notice the difference. People will be able to tell physically, you’ll definitely be one or two dress sizes down. I’ve heard a lot of women say, ‘Ooh, I have a waist now!’” adds Burr. “You’ve done three of your four-week programs and you’re so much stronger. It’s a lifestyle now, too. It really cements, in that ‘I can do this!’”

12 Months

By now, you have lower blood pressure, noticeably stronger heart and lungs and strengthened immunity. You’re eating healthy foods 80 to 90 per cent of the time, portion sizes have decreased, you’re drinking more water and your wardrobe has changed. “People are happy to show off their figure,” says Massarotti. “You should be sleeping better and be rid of most of those unhealthy habits like soft drink and smoking.”

Don’t be surprised if your whole mindset has shifted. “Emotional eating is a habit a lot of women try to break and within a year, they’ve got a grasp on it. If you do have a binge, you can stop it and move forward from there,” adds Massarotti.

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