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How Long Does Change Take? At Least 6 Months

We’re three weeks into the new year and I’m sure that many of you have already put aside your New Years resolutions. Which is understandable, especially if you’re three weeks into a new fitness or exercise regimen. Where are the results?

According to new research reported on in yesterday’s NY Times, those results are going to take time. At least 6 months, and more likely, a year or more.

In the study of men, observers and subjects were asked to rate their bodies before and after 6 weeks’ worth of fitness training and exercise. The results?

Results were not surprising. The subjects rated themselves more highly than anyone else rated them, and female panelists rated the subjects lower than the male subjects or panelists rated them. But, over all, the subjects’ ratings barely changed, if at all, after their exercise program. And neither did objective measures, like weight or percentage of body fat, or waist size or the size of the bicep or thigh.

Yup, 6 weeks isn’t long enough to start noticing (or experiencing) real change in virtually anybody’s body. So what length of time is?

“To make a change in how you look, you are talking about a significant period of training,” Dr. Kraemer said. “In our studies it takes six months to a year.” And, he added, that is with regular strength-training workouts, using the appropriate weights and with a carefully designed individualized program. “That is what the reality is,” he said.

And genetic differences among individuals mean some people respond much better to exercise than others […]

In other words, it likely took you years to get to the body you have today, and it’s going to take a similar amount of time to get back to a more healthy and fit body.

I say the same thing to folks who ask how long psychotherapy generally takes to help a person with a mental health concern. Depending upon the concern, its severity, and the person’s willingness to make significant changes, most mental health issues cannot be resolved in just a few weeks’ time.

Just like in physical health, it almost always takes months — and occasionally, years — to make significant changes in our lives to successfully treat a mental health concern.

This isn’t meant to talk you out of your goals, but rather help you set realistic expectations internally for yourself. Because nothing is more demoralizing than expecting to see change in a certain period of time, and seeing none — not because the change isn’t occurring, but because it’s occurring in such gradual and small increments that it can be difficult to notice when looked at in such a small time period.

Read the full article: Fitness Isn’t an Overnight Sensation

How Long Does Change Take? At Least 6 Months

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). How Long Does Change Take? At Least 6 Months. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2020, from
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Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 22 Jan 2009)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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