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How to Breakthrough a Fitness Plateau in Your Exercise Routine

March 23, 2017 by HealthyFamiliesBC

How to Breakthrough a Fitness Plateau in Your Exercise Routine

Ever hear of people who don’t seem to get fitter with exercise? You may have even heard the term “non-responders”. Or maybe you’ve talked to someone who reached a fitness or weight loss “plateau” where they no saw longer improvements. Let’s shine a bit of light on these topics. 

Hitting a Plateau

Lack of improvement in your fitness, or hitting a plateau, can be frustrating. But remember, the human body adapts to the stimuli you give it. If you weren’t active before and are now running 20 minutes four times each week, your fitness will improve rapidly. As you get fitter though, you will need to keep challenging your body to improve. This is called progressive overload. In other words, “slowly ramping it up”. Keep in mind the following:

  • Someone who is very fit (like an athlete) would need a very large training load of up to 20+ hours of exercise per week to make small improvements. This is known as the principal of diminishing returns. 
  • Remember that sleeping well (eight or more hours per night), eating well, and a lower stress level all help your body adapt to the training you have done. Don’t burn the candle on both ends!

What can you do if you think you are plateauing? 

  1. Look at your fitness routine. Write down what you have been doing and for how many weeks. 
  2. Consider your goals. If you’d like to achieve a healthy weight, four to five hours of aerobic physical activity per week may be needed rather than the recommended minimum guidelines. Or if your goal is to complete a 4 day hike or race a triathlon, again you’ll probably need to do more than the recommended minimum of 150 minutes per week of aerobic exercise. 
  3. Adjust your routine to your goals. For example, walk briskly with a loaded backpack to get in shape for your hike, or do interval training so you have good leg speed for the running part of your triathlon.

Non-responders to Exercise

Like many aspects of life, some people pick-up certain things quicker than others. For example, someone might have an ear for music and are able to play any instrument they wish while others snap guitar strings. Likewise for exercise. Some bodies tend to respond very well to aerobic training and a little training gives huge improvements, while others are slower to respond. 

But are there really people who never get more fit? A recent study has shown that all their non-responder participants saw improvements with more time exercising. So, there’s a good chance the answer is no. Most of us won’t run as fast as Andre De Grasse or swim like Ryan Cochrane, but with consistency and dedication we can all improve our running, swimming, or even walking. 

Keep in mind being active improves your health in more ways than what you see on the outside. Changes on the inside like improved blood vessel and heart health, lower cholesterol and stronger bones are huge benefits that keep your body functioning and feeling well.  

If you’d like help with your fitness routine or think you are plateauing, give the Qualified Exercise Professionals at Healthlink BC a call. Dial 8-1-1 for free advice and support.

Related blogs 

Is the Short HIIT Workout Too Good to be True?
What Exercise Intensity is Best for Your Workout?
Healthy Eating for a Healthier Weight

Reccomended resources

The Myth of Exercise “Non-Responders” 



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