Amazing changes you can expect through your exercise journey

What happens to your body once you start exercising, after a week, month, and a year into a new fitness routine? Here are the changes you can expect.

If you’ve launched into a new fitness regimen for 2023, you’re not alone.

A Finder survey identified that the nation’s top New Year’s resolutions typically included improving diet and increasing exercise. 

If you’re one of these people, you’ll likely want to know exactly what exercise progress you can expect to see on your fitness journey. 

Here’s the exercise progress you can expect once you’ve started your fitness plan:

Body changes after day one of exercise

Exercise physiologist Richelle Street says getting started is often the most challenging part.

“The first thing many people will notice is what we call ‘delayed onset muscle soreness’, which is abbreviated as DOMS – it’s a very normal response after exercise, and it’s important people don’t get discouraged by it,” Richelle says.

“Most people will want to take a break, but it’s important to keep going and follow up with some light exercise, a light walk or a swim – anything that keeps the body moving.”

After week one

After a few sessions at the gym or some easy runs around the neighbourhood, you’ll notice some small changes.

FIT Toorak personal trainer Penny Dew says the exercise progress will be different for each person, depending on the program they’re on but, generally, most people will start to feel improvements.

“You’ll likely begin to have more energy; you’ll start to feel healthier and possibly notice an increase in self-esteem,” Penny says.

According to Penny, you can also get quite hungry at this stage because you’re burning energy and need more food to fuel your body.

“That will settle as you continue, and people … actually start to eat better because they’re more in tune with their body,” she adds.

After weeks three to four

Penny says physical changes become obvious towards the end of the first month.

“People will notice that their muscle tone is improving; they’ll look stronger; and their posture improves,” she says.

“Some people will also get a good mental health boost around this time, which is something a lot of us don’t expect, but it can be really positive and motivating.”

After weeks six to eight

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! 

You’re not just making exercise progress, your routine is now becoming a habit.

“The research does vary, but the six-week mark is when you’ve built up a routine,” Richelle says.

“That’s why you often see those starter courses at the gym or with a personal trainer that last six weeks to two months.

“It’s a stage where people are definitely seeing improvements, especially if they’re doing strength training … and they feel motivated to continue.”

It’s also a good point in the journey for people to start challenging themselves, she adds.

“It might be lifting more weight, increasing the frequency like adding another session, or trying to go a bit faster. 

“But you shouldn’t increase your load by more than 10 to 15 per cent, or you may cause injury.”

After one year

A year in, you’ll have reached your baseline fitness.

That means you are permanently fitter, stronger and healthier, and you’ve had considerable changes in your physical appearance and endurance ability.

However, one common complaint at this stage is that the level of growth or improvement is tapering off.

“Basically, you’ll find that your improvement plateaus,” Richelle says.

“You might be unable to keep adding load as you had a few months ago – this is because your baseline fitness is much higher, so you’re not getting those excessive increases in improvement.”

But don’t be discouraged – instead, it’s important to acknowledge that you’re reaching your peak, and that the process is now about maintaining routine, Richelle says.

“You might add a session of yoga or weight training; it’s now about keeping that level of fitness that you’ve been building towards rather than huge gains,” she adds.