“Cozy cardio” is taking over—but is it worth it? Here’s what to tell your patients

By Lisa Marie Basile | Fact-checked by Jessica Wrubel
Published September 11, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Cozy cardio is a TikTok-based trend based on the idea of doing low-impact workouts in your home while wearing cozy clothes and watching a movie. 

  • Experts say it’s a great way to get moving, but patients engaging in it should mix it up to achieve optimal health results.

TikTok is brimming with videos touting the concept of “cozy cardio”—often showcasing candle-lit living rooms where people work out while watching their favorite movie. The term “cozy cardio” was coined by TikTok user Hope Zuckerbrow, whose videos have amassed millions of likes and comments. At this point, you may even have a patient wondering if cozy cardio is right for them.[]

If you click on any of Zuckerbrow’s 29 videos on the topic, you’ll see her waking up early, wearing fuzzy socks and a robe, making a mixed coffee beverage, and walking about 40 minutes on a walking pad while watching TV. The goal is to create a specifically cozy environment where you can work out peacefully. 

In one video, she warmed up at a 3  MPH pace, bumped it to 4 MPH and then 4.5 MPH, and, finally, cooled down at 3.5 MPH. 

Cozy cardio, in general, focuses on low-impact workouts, but Penny Weston, fitness and nutrition expert and founder of MADE Wellness Centre told Women’s Health, “You can opt for any form of exercise, such as yoga, a full body workout, a dance routine, a quick HIIT workout or even Pilates. The trend is not about the type of exercise you are doing; it is about making time for yourself and connecting with your body.”[]

Should you recommend cozy cardio to your patients?

The trend seems to occupy both the self-care and fitness spaces. First, enthusiasts of the movement believe that cozy living room workouts are a great way to avoid the expectations of perfection or social anxiety that a public gym environment may elicit. The trend may also help reestablish a healthy relationship with exercise. “Society puts so much pressure on women to look a certain way, and because of that, a lot of them have turned exercise into a punishment,” Zuckerbrow said recently in a video.[]

A study published in the Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment found that even when some anxious people value exercise, they may be less likely to engage in it—unless in private. “It may be the social aspect of exercise that leads to avoidance of exercise and potentially may exacerbate negative physical and mental health outcomes,” the authors write.[] 

In younger adults who want to better their relationship with working out, researchers also found that home-based YouTube workouts had “positive effects on participants’ self-determined motivation for [physical activity] and decreased perceived barriers to [physical activity].”[] 

But can cozy cardio actually benefit your patients’ health?

For those who want to walk like Zuckerbrow, the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise recommends brisk walking at 3-4 MPH for health benefits.[]

Studies on the efficacy of low-impact workouts, in general, show that they can be beneficial. One study on older adults with multimorbidity found that low-impact, moderate-intensity stepping effectively improved fatigue and functional outcomes. Another systematic review found that adults engaging in low-impact workouts saw greater flexibility, balance, lower limb muscle strength, and improved depressive symptoms through low-intensity exercises.

Tom Eskey, an ISSA-certified personal trainer, nutrition coach, and founder of Garage Gym Revisited, says that for patients new to working out, cozy cardio’s “thirty-to-sixty-minute walk is likely going to garner positive results.” 

Eskey—who supports home workouts—has an alternative perspective: “Consider replicating a traditional ‘pre-gym’ routine. This should include donning traditional gym attire and consuming a more traditional pre-workout gym beverage (black coffee or unsweetened pre-workout drink/shake). This process will create a more focused ‘it’s time to workout’ mindset, increasing the likelihood that the session will actually take place. From here, Netflix and walking at a moderate pace can proceed as cozy cardio prescribes!”

Ashley Castleberry, a NASM-certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, says patients will want to mix things up a bit. “To see significant cardiovascular and strength improvements, it's essential to incorporate more challenging workouts as well. The key is balance. Use cozy cardio during busy weeks or rest days, but also push yourself with high-intensity interval training, weight training, or higher-intensity cardio a few days a week.”

Another downside? Cozy cardio may just be too cozy. Caroline Grainger, ISSA certified personal trainer with a BS in Kinesiology, says that while it’s good the trend gets patients moving, there are clear limitations to the concept of cozy cardio: “Cozy clothes tend to be restricting and will heat you up quickly, dim lighting will send ‘relax’ signals to your brain instead of encouraging you to be more active like bright sunlight would, and too many aromatherapy candles in a small space is a great way to work out in poor air quality.”

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