How long does progress take?


How long does progress take? That’s the type of question that sits right alongside others like Are we there yet? and How long is a piece of string?

It helps—in these situations—to clarify what we’re talking about. So, I’ll refer here to ballpark numbers for improvement. It should be clear to the naked eye—or tastefully nude microscope.

Magnify me like one of your French girls

In each of the following examples, there is a range given. The low-end is based on motor learning and skill development. This can be lightning-fast. Structural changes (the laying down or redistribution of tissue) take longer.

Clear improvements to:

  • Aerobic endurance ( a few minutes to 30 days
  • Maximal strength: a few minutes to a few months
  • Strength endurance: a couple of minutes to a couple of weeks
  • Maximal speed: 30 seconds to 30 days
  • Synaptic performance: within milliseconds.
  • Non-synaptic performance (observable structural changes to axons, dendrites, myelin, and ion channels): 10 days to 6 weeks
  • Gene expression (epigenetic changes): as little as one day.

Check out this study that showed changes in gene expression related to resilience as the result of 8 continuous hours of mindfulness training.

  • Forming a new habit: a few days to a few weeks
  • Learning a new skill: a few minutes to a few weeks
  • Synaptic pruning: 3-4 weeks
  • Unlearning the idea that being healthy and fit has anything to do with the way you—or anyone else—looks: see above
  • To calm down and reset after a stressful experience: from a few breaths to a few minutes
  • To let someone know that you appreciate them
  • Realizing that a lot of things that we assumed to important can disappear—never be missed: ~1 global pandemic.

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