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How Long Does It Take To Achieve Long Lasting Health & Fitness Results?

Written by: Nick Jack
Category: 2014
on 31 December 2019
Hits: 6607

One of life’s realities is that significant improvements take time, they do not happen overnight. Yet when it comes to health and fitness we have been convinced that great results can occur in only 8 weeks or 12 weeks! How often do you see marketing on social media, in magazines and on TV for fitness challenges to get you in your best shape in 12 weeks? Today’s modern world is moving so fast and technology has allowed us to get things at the click of button that we have come to expect instant gratification in just about everything we do. And when it doesn’t happen people become discouraged very quickly and try one of two options. They try to cut corners and try extreme methods to speed things up or they simply give up. And it is not just the people trying to lose weight or get fit, we also see this same mentality with people suffering injuries that require a great deal of rehabilitation and work on their behalf. Many see this work as being too hard and taking too long and search for something to provide instant relief or someone to “fix them” instead. This short term approach only serves to create a much bigger long term problem. In this article I explain why long lasting results with health and fitness take considerable time and as a society we must begin to change our mindset to the way we look at exercise, nutrition, and changing lifestyle habits.

Unrealistic Expectations Are Why Many People Fail With Fitness

It is no big surprise to hear that many people do not stick to their new year’s resolutions. Research conducted by the University of Scranton shows that while 77 percent of people who committed to a New Year’s resolution stuck to it for at least a week, it shows that only 8 percent of people who actually achieve those goals in a timely fashion—if ever.

This is not due to a lack of will-power, it is mainly due to three things.

  1. Basing their plan on poor knowledge that is never going to work. See our article on why people struggle to lose belly fat for a great example of this.
  2. Poor planning, or no plan at all and applying a random approach.
  3. And lastly an unrealistic understanding of how long it is going to take.

When people stick to a new regime that is a big shock to their way of life and they see little to no results they think why bother. They have seen the magnificent pictures on social media of body transformations or heard about a miracle story of someone changing getting on top of things really quickly and thinks expect it to be the same for them. Sure, there may be some people out there who do well in a short time, but this is a very small minority and you do not know what their life is like to allow them time, and money to devote to making these changes so fast.

A perfect example is how magazines like Men’s Health show the workout of a famous actor who buffed up for a movie. To compare your life to an actor who has no daytime job to go to, a full time nutritionist and team of people around them to support and help, without the same day to day life stresses that the average person has to deal with is ridiculous.

When I first meet a new client who is interested in taking on personal training to get in shape one of the first questions they ask me is, “how long will it take to achieve my goal?” The answer to this is impossible for me to provide for there are many factors to consider. Yet, I often explain they will see some changes early on in the first 2-3 months but they are not even close to finishing the job and to reach their ultimate goal they are more likely looking at 12 months plus.

To reach their true potential and be on the maintenance program where it is easy to stay in shape you will need 1-2 years of consistent training and eating well! In the strength and conditioning world this is referred to as your training age and for ALL people, even elite athletes it takes 2 years of consistent training to be classified as an "adult" in training age. Yet, for many people this is simply too long as they have come to expect instant results. I struggle to understand the logic that habits that caused the problems in the first place and have been used for many years can be simply turned off and changed in a blink of an eye. 

You Can NEVER Skip Steps

Becoming a master at anything takes time. You have to practice a lot and appreciate that there will be many mistakes and a lot of frustration before you truly master whatever new skill you are trying to obtain. Think of a basketball player trying to perfect their free throw shooting or a golfer trying to perfect their putting. How long does it take to become the best at this? It takes years of consistent practice to get this to a point of being automatic.

We all know this is a simple law of mastery yet we do not seem to think this law applies to health and fitness goals and that we can skip these steps of mastery. We have discussed this before with exercise technique and how dangerous it can be when people ignore learning how move well before applying fitness training methods. This is the perfect recipe for ending up with a serious injury that will give you a new goal, to get your health back!

Read the article – Why you should never sacrifice exercise technique  to see more about this.

For Best Results Only Change ONE Thing At A Time

By far the biggest mistake many make is trying to change too many things all at once. They try to change their entire diet overnight, join a gym, run 3 times per week, and many other various other dramatic lifestyle changes. While these all sound good this guarantees failure for there is too many things to learn and the stress of changing things overwhelms the brain which does not like change.

Again this is another reason why so many people fail extreme restriction diets and each year take up the 12 week challenge. I am all for getting people started with fitness but we should change the way challenges are marketed letting people know that this is just the starting point. Most people are unable to stick with the demanding exercise schedule and restrictive eating for a long time and they have never been taught the lessons of what it really takes to become healthy and stay there.

The key is to start small, start with one thing at a time, and make the change easier. If I was to use the analogy of the basketball player again I do not try to teach him all the moves and complex plays to do with the game on the first week. I start with simple skills and give him/her time to learn them before showing them another one. With time they begin to grasp concepts and skills quickly that allow more complex skills to be learned later on much more easily.

You want to make changing as easy as possible and thinking of how to sustain it forever. At no point do you want to be thinking I only need to do this for a short time and go back to my old ways. If you make too many drastic changes, it feels really hard and really different, and you know it is not something you can stick to for very long. But when you make a change easier, it makes it easier to take that all-important first step. Once you take that first step, you have a bit of forward momentum. And it's much easier to be consistent and stick with something for a long time. Our minds tend to adjust over time.

Years ago when I had to explain how to implement complex assessments and methods to new trainers working with me in my studio and I was very frustrated trying to explain exactly what I do. I just wanted to show them everything I knew as fast as I could, but all this did was make them more confused and less confident leading to more mistakes and getting me even more frustrated. I had to learn that the secret was to break things into chunks so they could digest information one piece at a time. This eventually became the blueprint for all of the special reports we created for knee pain, back pain, and shoulder pain I still use very successfully today (see our online shop for details of these). This was a great lesson I learned about how valuable it is to use a step by step approach to solve a complex problem.

Practice Persistence & Never Give Up

Even when you do take the time to learn things correctly and plan things out well you have to take into account that sometimes life gets in your way. It could be a family event, a new job, moving house, etc. Any number of things can easily throw your best intentions off track. On paper everything always looks great but very rarely do things work smoothly all the time so you have to allow for this in your expectations of how long it will take to achieve your goals. The picture below is a great visual of what happens when you try to get in shape.


It is easy for us to lose the plot and not finish what we started when something goes wrong and it is in these times that having clear goals and a firm understanding of WHY you are trying to get in shape is so important. A fantastic article we did a while back that gives you a great tips on this is here – How to stay on track when life throws you a curveball

Persistence is probably the single most common quality of high achievers. They simply refuse to give up. The longer you hang in there, the greater the chance that something will happen in your favour. No matter how hard it seems, the longer you persist the more likely your success.

If you are someone working on rehabilitation from an injury this mindset is more important than ever for pain can make a real mess with your decision making. With exercise that is used to correct dysfunction muscle fatigue is very likely, that will lead to some "good pain" over the next 48 hours. But you must understand it is absolutely necessary and without it nothing will change. The chance of the wrong muscles completing these exercises is very common which is why tremendous care and emphasis on technique and gradual progression is so important. For even the right exercise can cause problems as the body continues to use a corrupted motor program. This is a delicate process and will vary from person to person and having patience and a strong persistence to go through the up and down process of correcting this is essential.

Read our detailed article that explains how this process works - Why good pain is needed to eliminate bad pain

Committing yourself to constant, never ending improvement is the key to success. Even if it is just one thing that is fine. Do one thing well and then move on to one more and with enough time you will master each skill to a point of it becoming automatic. Quality of change is more important than how many changes you make. If you do this right it will mean your results will take a lot longer to achieve which is fine for you only have to do it once. Don't let setbacks stop you in your tracks, just acknowledge that it is all part of the learning process and you will be better for it. Far too many people give up when they have done all the hard work and almost at the point where it will get easier. Keep on pushing through as it is worth the effort.

Over-Training & Recovery

The last big mistake of the person who tries to do everything at once and achieve incredibly fast results is they still believe that more is better when it comes to exercise. They try to cram as many workouts in as they can to fast track their results and neglect the value of recovery. This is a huge mistake that will come back to bite them later.

While the damage done to muscles from exercise is a good thing and beneficial in the long run, too much damage can result in muscle injuries that can sometimes take weeks or longer to recover from. Over-training and poor training techniques can cause muscle injuries and damage to the ligaments and other connective tissues that bind muscles to bone and muscles to each other.

In order for the body to adapt, it must have a period of repair. If you cannot adapt to and cope with the physical and mental demands of training, you will quickly become exhausted and expose the body to potential harm. The harder you train the longer you must rest. This is another problem created by the Fitness industry constantly promoting health challenges advising people to work out seven days a week to fast track results. The emphasis is more on volume with a belief of more the better as opposed to quality of training and doing it correctly. It is a shame to see so many of the chronic injuries created from this reckless mentality that could easily be avoided with better appreciation and respect to how we use exercise.

Recovery should be looked upon as important as the training itself and more is not better.  Unfortunately this means it will take time and slow down your progress to your goal but it is a law of nature you cannot break. Watch the video below for a detailed explanation of this.


Elite athletes understand this principle and this is why the carefully plan their preparations months, if not years in advance. Can you imagine trying to win a gold medal at the Olympics with a 12 week fast track program? It would never happen.

Now you might be thinking this is not relevant to you for you are not trying to win an Olympic medal, you just want to get in shape. Perhaps you do not need the same degree of training but you would be fool to not acknowledge the reason these athletes are so good is because they adhere to these laws of training and recovery.

  • They plan carefully a long way out from their competition.
  • They always warm up and spend time with recovery methods
  • They train at their absolute potential and if they do not feel great they take time off to rest
  • They eat well and do all the little things like getting to bed on time to guarantee their training effort is maximised

If you are not 100% clear on this principle make sure you read the full articles below that explains this in great detail and give you some great tips of how to maximise each training session.


For more help with putting all the pieces together correctly there are some great resources you can download instantly by clicking the image below of the report you need. The functional training report is free and is one of the chapters from the Little Black Book which is the ultimate training resource.



It is time we really started to educate the community about the reality of how long it takes to achieve great results with health and fitness. We must move beyond strict eating and exercise regimes that try to fast track results at the expense of quality movement and nutrition principles. I strongly believe that if people really knew how taking your time is much easier to stick to over a long period we would not see the constant yo-yo dieters and exercise habits we see today.

All the successful people I have worked with for over 15 years of being a personal trainer in Melbourne achieved great results because they stuck to it for a long time. They all achieved their full potential about 18 months to 2 years into their training. They definitely achieved some great results earlier but it took them that long to learn all the little things they needed to know about how to maintain it forever. They had to make mistakes and learn from them, and they needed time to implement the big changes. They simply needed time.

If you would like to know more about our Personal Training programs click the image below and I will be in touch within 24 hours to schedule a time for a free health diagnostic consultation. You will also find our INDEX PAGE that features over 200 of our best articles in an easy to reference index an invaluable resource for everything to do with health and fitness.


About The Author

Nick Jack is owner of No Regrets Personal Training and has over 15 years’ experience as a qualified Personal Trainer, Level 2 Rehabilitation trainer, CHEK practitioner, and Level 2 Sports conditioning Coach. Based in Melbourne Australia he specialises in providing solutions to injury and health problems for people of all ages using the latest methods of assessing movement and corrective exercise.


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