It seems like a simple question, but there are a number of factors that affect the answer. In shape is a general term for fitness, but what is in shape?
People have different definitions as to what it means to be in shape. For some, it may mean having the ability to run a mile. For others, it may be as simple as walking up the stairs without getting winded. Others might view being in shape as being able to perform at a competitive level in various sports and activities while for some with one eye on the summer it may simply be looking their best for the beach.
The term getting in shape is synonymous with fitness, and the definition of fitness is quite specific. Being physically fit encompasses five components of health.
This is a component that is most commonly thought of as fitness. It is the ability to have your cardiovascular and respiratory systems function well during exercise.
The ability of your muscles to perform repetitive tasks over time.
The ability to use your muscles to their fullest extent in your daily life.
The ability to move your body's joints throughout a full range of motion.
This refers to your lean body mass to body fat ratio. A healthy body composition is essential to overall health and can help you to avoid heart disease and diabetes. A healthy body composition is anywhere between 8% and 25% body fat for men, and between 15% and 32% body fat for women.
Looking at the components of fitness above, you can see that asking, "How long does it take to get in shape?" isn't as easily answered as it might seem. The answer depends in large part on where you start. Some people may achieve a healthy body composition and all of the other components of fitness in about six weeks, while others may take months to get to a point where they meet the full definition of physically fit.
Just because it may take months, however, is no reason to not start. Even when you start a workout routine you will begin to notice the benefits right away if the routine is approached appropriately. Within a few weeks, you will notice changes in all of the elements of fitness. Within about six weeks, you should be ready to take your workout routine to the next level.
The answer, then, is that getting in shape isn't a destination, but rather it is an ongoing process. However the sooner you start, the closer you’ll be to reaching your goals of your definition of in shape.