How Fast Can You Gain or Lose Fitness?

8th Sep 2023

How Fast Can You Gain or Lose Fitness?

Written by Joseph McCrory

Many people who are thinking about exercising want to know how fast you can gain fitness and  current fitness enthusiasts often want to know how fast you lose fitness if you stop training.

Here are some answers!

Gaining Fitness: It Only Takes Weeks

We have great news for you: If you have not been working out, you can measurably improve fitness in weeks. 

If you are currently working out, the answer will be different because progress slows over time. Think of a world-champion sprinter: It will take a lot of work to make that runner even a little faster. It will take less work for a newer runner to increase speed. It is the same with general fitness.

For less-experienced people, it does not take long to see results in the gym. How long? In general, you can expect to see measurable results in about six weeks of training if you work out properly. Many factors will affect this timeframe: the workouts you do, the frequency of training, the intensity of the workouts, your diet and sleep, and your stress levels.  Work with one of qualified coaches for optimal results.

It is not uncommon for new clients to feel a little sore after the first few workouts but then feel noticeably better both mentally and physically. Some will tell us they have more energy and “feel stronger” after just a few weeks of training, and others will report changes in confidence and mood. We love hearing about stuff like that, but we also rely on metrics so clients have actual data that shows their progress.

For example, we can track performance on conditioning workouts, strength progression, and weight and body-fat levels, to name just a few metrics. Some will move faster than others. New clients often measurably improve strength in four to eight weeks, and conditioning improvements are very common, too. Significant weight and fat loss can take longer, but small changes often happen in the first two months of training. 

The amazing news: These swift results are common with people of any age! No matter how old you are, you can get real results in the gym in a relatively short time.

Will you experience rapid changes forever? No, the fitness improvements slow down a little as you gain experience. But that’s OK: You can make steady progress for decades, and a coach can tell you exactly what to do to keep moving forward. Chasing milestones becomes a lot of fun. The best part? You’ll be healthier long term! 

If you want even more specific info on training adaptations, check out this detailed article for a list of training-related changes to the muscles and the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

Fitness: No Work, No Reward

Here’s the truth about fitness: Use it or lose it. If you stop training, you can expect to slide backward. This does not happen instantly, so do not stress if you miss a workout or two. Miss a holiday once in a while will not derail you completely either.

In general, you can expect to start moving backward in about two to four weeks without activity. If you are inactive for longer periods, such as two to six months, your fitness levels will be significantly reduced. 

Again, these declines will be influenced by several factors. For example, someone who stops training and moving completely will experience a swifter decline than someone who stays relatively active outside the gym. And someone who quits training altogether will move backward while a person who just reduces training might be able to maintain fitness even if it is not improved further.

In addition, some research has found that well-trained people hold their fitness longer than those who do not train for very long before dropping the healthy habit. You can read more about that here.

The bottom line: You should not feel panicked if you miss a few workouts. But if you want to preserve your fitness level, it would be a mistake to pass on training and activity for two to four weeks. The best plan of all: stay active for life and constantly work to improve your health and fitness in the gym.