When it comes to fitness, the most common question (and the toughest one to answer) is “How long will it take me to see results?”

It’s tough to answer this question because it depends on the person, how much effort they put in, how consistently they are working out and how efficiently their body works.

The good news is you can see results in the short term and the long term. As soon as you work out, you can feel some results right away. A good workout can make you feel stronger and more toned. Exercise also releases endorphins that will make you feel generally happier and more energetic during and after the workout. As an added bonus, you’re likely to sleep better that night.

If you’re looking to make a more significant change, like boosting cardiovascular endurance or building muscle, you need to make longer term lifestyle changes.

Improving cardiovascular strength

Let’s say you want to boost your cardiovascular health. While it’s different for everyone, this can take eight to 12 weeks of consistent exercise on average. You should aim to do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise three times per week.

Resting heart rate can decrease by up to 1 beat per minute in sedentary individuals with each week of aerobic training, at least for the first few weeks before you level off. Other studies have shown smaller reductions with fewer than 5 beats following up to 20 weeks of aerobic training.

If you want to improve your cardiovascular strength and endurance quicker, interval training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are the most efficient forms of cardio workouts. One study found that HIIT can have a greater impact on reducing your resting heart rate than moderate-intensity interval training and moderate-intensity continuous training, like jogging.

Losing weight

When it comes to weight loss, it’s difficult to predict how long it will take for results. It depends on a person's specific goals, body type, weight, age, and other factors.

No matter what goals you’re trying to achieve, healthy eating habits have to be an integral part of your workout routine. If you’re trying to lose some weight through exercise, it’s possible to start seeing results in two to three weeks. But if you want to keep the weight off, you'll need a routine that progresses slowly and steadily and includes a nutrition plan to support your physical activity.

Building muscle

If you’re trying to build muscle through strength training, it’s possible to see results after just one session. That’s because of the ‘muscle pump’ phenomenon, which refers to the increased blood, oxygen, and lactic acid that moves to your muscles during a super-intense lifting session.

That initial boost in your muscle size is just a sneak peek. If you’re just starting, you may notice a difference in your muscles and strength roughly six to eight weeks into your strength training program. If you’re more advanced, results might take longer – close to eight-to-12 weeks. This estimated timing will be different for everyone.

To build muscle, aim for three-to-five strength training sessions per week with more sets and reps at 75 to 85 percent of your one-rep maximum. Keep your rest time minimal. It’s also important to make sure you eat enough protein.

The general rule if you want to build muscle is to consume 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per day for every pound of body weight. So, a 150-pound woman would aim to eat at least 150 grams of protein per day. Protein helps you stay fuller for longer compared to when you eat carbs or fats, so it can help curb your appetite while fueling and recharging your muscles.

If you’re trying to get stronger, but not looking for big biceps, you could aim for two-to-four weekly sessions with fewer reps and sets at 85 to 100 percent of your one rep maximum. Rest for about three minutes between sets. If you’re not sure what your one-rep maximum is, choose a weight that feels challenging, but not impossible, on the final rep.

If you want to see results, the best advice is to focus on the short-term wins. How do you feel when you work out? Are you sleeping better? Do you feel better about how you look? These shorter-term rewards will help you stick with your workouts on a consistent basis, and the longer term results will follow.