This is the time of year when well-intentioned New Year's resolutions start to get tough, and many of us begin falling back into old habits. One reason for this could be unrealistic expectations. You've been working out and eating right for over a month now, and so far you have only seen a small change on the scale. No sign of the 6-pack abs you're working toward, and you're not getting the compliments from family and friends you would have expected by now. But is a month really enough time to start seeing results? How long and how much effort does it take to start seeing real changes in your body?
A study from the University of Wisconsin recruited sedentary people for a six-week exercise program to see if others would notice any change in their bodies after the six weeks was over. Volunteers were photographed wearing bathing suits and then were randomly assigned to one of three groups: cardiovascular exercise, strength training or no physical activity at all. Six weeks later, they were photographed again.
The volunteers were men ages 18-40. Their heads were blocked out of the photos, and the volunteers and judges rated each person's body on a scale of 1 to 10. Overall, their ratings barely changed after the 6-week period. Not surprisingly, there was also little change in body fat and measurements over this time.
Six weeks probably isn't enough time to see dramatic physical results when it comes to a diet and exercise program. Although it could take six months or more to see the kind of before and after pictures you're hoping for, the good thing is that there are benefits you should start seeing within the first few weeks of changing your lifestyle. For example, better sleep, less stress and more energy are immediate benefits of regular physical activity and a healthy diet. Keep in mind that you didn't gain the weight overnight, and slow changes aren't necessarily a bad thing. Losing weight slowly ensures that a higher percentage of the loss is coming from fat instead of muscle, and also makes it much more likely that you'll keep the weight off for good.
Do you struggle to stay motivated when you don't see immediate results? How do you stay focused and on track toward your goals when this happens?
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