I mostly have a “go hard or go home” attitude to training. That’s because I know that intense workouts usually deliver the best results in the least amount of time.
While high-intensity workouts are never easy, exercisers often feel a sense of accomplishment when they finish. That post-workout muscle soreness and lingering fatigue is a signal that you’ve done something worthwhile.
However, there are plenty of people who do not share this point of view. For them, the discomfort of intense exercise is unpleasant and off-putting.
In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, exercise enjoyment levels were higher in people who did moderate-intensity workouts compared to those who participated in high-intensity training (1).
There is nothing wrong with high-intensity workouts. If you enjoy them, you should continue doing them. That said, working out does not have to be painful. That’s especially true if you are primarily interested in health, weight management, and longevity.
Cozy cardio is the polar opposite of high-intensity exercise. In this guide, I explore cozy cardio, providing you with the Information you need to determine if it’s the right approach for you.
What is Cozy Cardio?
Cozy cardio is a fitness trend started by TikToker Hope Zuckerbrow. Founder of the Cozy Cardio Fitness Club, Hope posted her first cozy cardio video back in late 2022. Her unique approach to working out has been gaining popularity ever since.
Unlike many workouts, which are intense and incredibly prescriptive, cozy cardio is very straightforward. The aim of cozy cardio is to elevate your heart rate while staying as comfortable as possible.
This can involve gentle treadmill walking while watching TV, indoor cycling as you listen to your favorite podcast, or even sipping a coffee as you stroll around your neighborhood with friends. You work out for as long as you wish, adjusting the pace and duration based on how you feel.
Cozy cardio emphasizes enjoyment over intensity, and participants are encouraged to find their own ways to make their workouts even more relaxed. This may include working out in your favorite pajamas, setting the mood with soft lighting, or lighting scented candles. The underlying rule is to enjoy what you do, which is key to creating a sustainable routine.
While cozy cardio might not be everyone’s “cup of tea,” there is no denying its appeal. After all, many exercisers find intense exercise off-putting. Some people are unable to participate in strenuous workouts, maybe because of low fitness levels, injuries, or overtraining. Cozy cardio removes many of the most common barriers to regular exercise.
But does cozy cardio work, or is it just a fad? It turns out that there are many benefits to this type of low-intensity cardio training.
The Benefits of Cozy Cardio
Not sure if cozy cardio is the right workout for you? Consider these benefits and then decide!
1. Cardiovascular Health Improvement
Cozy cardio is good for your heart, lung, and circulatory health. Given the importance of these organs, this is arguably the most significant benefit of cozy cardio. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), most adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week (2). Cozy cardio can help you achieve this goal.
2. Mental Well-being and Stress Relief
Low-intensity exercise, such as cozy cardio, is as good for your brain as it is for your body. Regular easy exercise can help alleviate stress, reduce anxiety, and improve your mood (3). In contrast, high-intensity exercise can cause stress, especially if you dread your next workout, or it results in unwanted suffering or pain.
3. Sustainable Fat Burning and Weight Control
Cozy cardio is a low-intensity workout that primarily uses stored body fat for fuel. Because your heart and breathing rate are low, you can do cozy cardio for relatively long periods, multiple days per week. This could help you burn fat and control your weight.
Higher-intensity workouts burn more calories, but you won’t be able to do them as often or for as long. In addition, less fit individuals may find activities like HIIT impractical or even impossible, even if they burn more calories. The best workout for weight management is the one that you can do regularly.
4. Low Risk of Injury
High-intensity and high-impact cardio puts a lot of stress on your muscles and joints. While this stress is usually well-tolerated, it can be a source of injuries for some people. Low-intensity cozy cardio is easy on your body, and most participants choose low-impact activities for their workouts. Subsequently, cozy cardio is a very low-risk workout and is unlikely to cause injuries.
5. Adherence and Consistency
One of the biggest barriers to exercise adherence is lack of enjoyment. After all, why put yourself through something you don’t like doing? High-intensity workouts are undeniably effective, but they can also hurt. That sort of self-inflicted suffering can be enough to stop some people from exercising consistently.
Cozy cardio is virtually painless. In fact, one of the tenets of cozy cardio is comfort. If it hurts, you are doing it wrong! More enjoyable workouts could help you make exercising more of a habit. After all, you’ll have one less excuse for skipping your workout.
6. Prevention and Treatment of Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of symptoms that include insulin resistance, chronically elevated blood glucose, weight and fat gain, and other serious health risks. It’s becoming more prevalent each year and can have a significant impact on health and life expectancy.
Being less sedentary, such as by doing daily cozy cardio, can help lower the risk of developing this medical condition and help reverse it if you are already a sufferer (4). Daily physical activity is especially valuable in the long-term management of metabolic syndrome.
7. Accessibility Across Demographics
High-intensity training is not suitable for all exercisers. For example, the elderly, unfit, very overweight, and beginners may struggle with intense workouts. They could even be dangerous for some participants.
Cozy cardio is far more accessible and compatible with a wide range of fitness and experience levels. It may also be more suitable for those suffering from chronic conditions, such as hypertension, joint pain, diabetes, or other conditions that make intense exercise unsafe or impractical.
8. Recovery and Active Rest
It’s not just beginners and the less fit that can benefit from cozy cardio. It’s good for more experienced exercisers, too. If you train hard, you must pay attention to rest and recovery. After all, most of your body’s adaptations to training occur between workouts.
Cozy cardio can be a form of active recovery, improving blood flow and speeding up the removal of metabolic waste products from your muscles (5). Recovering faster and more completely will make subsequent workouts more effective.
9. Social Engagement and Enjoyment
It’s hard to be sociable during an ultra-intense workout. You’ll probably be too out of breath to talk, and your work-to-rest intervals are tightly controlled, leaving very little time to chat. So, even if you work out in a group, there won’t be much opportunity for social interaction.
In contrast, cozy cardio is ideal for doing with family or friends as you’ll be able to chat as you work out. This can be in person, by phone, or video call. As such, you can do cozy cardio as part of a group, e.g., going for a walk with your partner.
Many people feel socially isolated, which can lead to unhappiness, loneliness, and depression. Cozy cardio provides an opportunity to make human connections, enhancing your mental and well as physical health.
10. Sleep Quality Enhancement
Many people suffer from varying degrees of insomnia. Poor quality or too little sleep can have a significant impact on your energy levels, mood, productivity, and general health. Insufficient sleep also hurts fat burning and can lead to weight gain.
High-intensity workouts, especially later in the day, can wake you up and disrupt your sleep cycle. In contrast, low-intensity cozy cardio is relaxing and meditative and could enhance sleep (6). So, instead of watching the TV before bed, why not try some cozy cardio? It could be the ideal preparation for a good night’s sleep.
Cozy Cardio Drawbacks
There is no denying the positive effects of cozy cardio. It can help you get fit, control your weight, and improve your enjoyment of exercise. Plus, it’s suitable for most levels of exercisers, even unfit beginners.
However, there are also a few drawbacks you need to consider:
1. Low Rate of Calorie Expenditure
While cozy cardio does burn calories and fat, the low level of intensity means that quantities will be relatively low. For example, a 170-pound person walking for an hour at a very comfortable 2.5 miles per hour will burn approximately 230 calories. In contrast, running at 7 miles per hour burns closer to 900.
As such, if you are using cozy cardio to manage your weight, you’ll probably need to do a lot of it, and you’ll also need to pay strict attention to your diet.
2. Modest Fitness Gains
Exercise specificity describes how your body adapts to the type of workout you do. For example, in response to lifting heavy weights, your muscles adapt by getting stronger and bigger. Cozy cardio workouts involve exercising at a low heart rate. While this will improve your aerobic fitness, increases will be relatively small.
So, if you want to improve your fitness significantly, e.g., so you can run a 10k or half marathon, you’ll need to adopt a more challenging workout regimen. However, if you only want to modestly increase your fitness, cozy cardio can help.
3. Limited Strength Benefits
Cardiovascular fitness is just one of the components that make up the total fitness model. Others include mobility, flexibility, balance, and strength. Strength is of particular importance because it decreases with age, leading to a lower functional capacity.
Cozy cardio is great for your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. However, it won’t do much to increase or preserve muscular strength. As such, you should combine cozy cardio with strength training to ensure you develop your cardiovascular and muscular systems.
Cozy Cardio – A Personal Perspective
I was skeptical the first time I read about cozy cardio. I’ve always enjoyed intense workouts, and I believe nothing in life worth having comes easy – especially fitness. I’m not afraid of hard work and usually look forward to getting outside my comfort zone.
That said, a few weeks ago, I had a hectic day at work and was feeling the effects of a night of disturbed sleep. The last thing I wanted to do was my scheduled HIIT session.
Having recently heard about cozy cardio, I decided that any exercise was better than no exercise, so I hopped on my air bike and started pedaling. I didn’t even put on my workout clothes.
I ignored the time, watts, heart rate, calories, and all the other metrics I usually obsess over. Instead, I focused on moving my arms and legs and gently increasing my heart and breathing rate.
As I exercised, I felt the stresses of the day start to evaporate, and energy seemed to flow into my body instead of out of it. I listened to an entire podcast as I pedaled and only stopped when it ended – a very enjoyable 40 minutes later. As the workout ended, I realized I felt more energized than at the start and wasn’t even sweaty.
I’ve since done several more cozy cardio workouts, both indoors and outdoors. Each one has been very pleasant and restorative. And while I have no intention of giving up my more intense workouts anytime soon, I can see the value of lower-intensity activities like cozy cardio and will continue doing them.
So, from personal experience, I can tell you that cozy cardio is a worthwhile workout and not just a fad. It’s suitable for all levels of exerciser, from unfit or overweight beginners to more advanced participants. It IS easy, but that’s the point and where its value lies. I don’t think it should replace higher-intensity workouts, but it warrants a place alongside.
Cozy Cardio FAQs
Do you have a question about cozy cardio? No problem, because we’ve got the answers! Feel free to post additional questions in the comment section below, and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
1. What exactly is cozy cardio, and how does it differ from HIIT?
Cozy cardio is a form of low-intensity steady state (LISS) cardio. TikToker Hope Zuckerbrow, founder of the Cozy Cardio Fitness Club, invented it in 2022. The aim of cozy cardio is to raise your heart and breathing rate while you remain as comfortable as possible. Cozy cardio workouts are performed at a low level of intensity and without excessive exertion.
Examples of cozy cardio include going for a walk with friends, riding an exercise bike while watching TV, or listening to your favorite podcast. Participants often wear casual clothes to enhance exercise comfort, and inventor Hope Zuckerbrow often does her workouts in her favorite pajamas.
In contrast, HIIT involves repeated bouts of high-intensity exercise alternated with brief rests, e.g., sprinting for 60 seconds, walking for two minutes, repeated ten times. HIIT workouts are much more challenging, and some people find them less enjoyable. Cozy cardio and HIIT are essentially at opposite ends of the cardio workout difficulty scale.
2. Can cozy cardio help with weight loss?
Cozy cardio, like all forms of exercise, can help you lose weight, providing your diet puts you into a caloric deficit. This means you must eat fewer calories than your body needs to sustain your weight. This energy shortfall forces your body to burn stored body fat for fuel, resulting in weight loss.
However, because of the low level of intensity, cozy cardio does not have a high energy cost. Subsequently, you will probably need to do it frequently and for relatively long periods to burn enough calories to lose weight.
3. Can I do cozy cardio every day?
Unlike higher-intensity workouts, which are often tiring and hard on your joints, cozy cardio is easy and joint-friendly. This means you can do it several times a week and even daily if you wish. However, you should listen to your body and take rest days if you feel tired or sore. If you start to feel tired or uncomfortable, you are going against the cozy cardio code.
4. What are some examples of cozy cardio exercises?
Any activity that raises your heart and breathing rate without causing overexertion counts as cozy cardio. Examples of cozy cardio exercises include:
- Walking (treadmill or outdoors)
- Cycling (stationary bike or outdoors)
- Rowing machine
Whatever you choose, your activity should be enjoyable, mindful, and not too taxing. If you feel tired or sweaty, you are working too hard. Adjust the workload and duration as needed to ensure your workout feels easy.
5. Do I need any special clothing for cozy cardio?
One of the unique features of cozy cardio is that you can do it in whatever clothes you want, including your PJs! Because you won’t be moving fast, you shouldn’t sweat, so there is no need for specific workout wear.
That said, make sure that whatever you wear won’t impede your workout. For example, it could be dangerous to wear loose-fitting flip-flops on a treadmill, and a dressing gown belt could trip you up on a treadmill. So, be comfortable, but also be sensible!
6. How can I make my cozy cardio sessions more enjoyable?
There is no one-size-fits-all way to do cozy cardio. It’s up to you to crack your own comfort and enjoyment code. For example, cozy fitness founder Hope Zuckerbrow favors walking on a treadmill while watching TV and sipping her protein coffee in loungewear.
Other participants put on soft music and use mood lighting to make their workouts more enjoyable.
Decide what type of workout you want to do, e.g., indoor cycling, and then think of how you can enhance your exercise experience. Experiment to find what works best for you. There is no right or wrong way to do cozy cardio.
7. When is the best time to do cozy cardio?
Cozy cardio is a flexible workout you can do at any time of the day. Some exercisers do their workouts first thing in the morning, while others do it before going to bed. Hope Zuckerbrow often videos herself walking on her treadmill at 5 a.m., straight after getting up. She’s usually wearing her pajamas and drinking her morning coffee!
Extend the cozy cardio ethos to the time of your workout and do it whenever it’s most comfortable and convenient. After all, that’s the key to creating a consistent exercise habit.
Cozy Cardio – Closing Thoughts
High-intensity workouts are not for everyone. While many people enjoy them, others find intense exercise off-putting. For some participants, the pain is not worth the gain. Training discomfort can be a legitimate barrier to regular exercise. It can even cause some people to drop out altogether.
Cozy cardio takes a different view of exercise. The workouts are comfortable and enjoyable, with an emphasis on moving your body without overexertion. This means they’re ideal for beginners, the less fit, and those with underlying medical conditions. Plus, they’re great for active recovery for more advanced exercisers.
While cozy cardio has numerous proven benefits, it’s not the only workout your body needs. It’ll help strengthen your heart and lungs and develop basic aerobic fitness, but it doesn’t do much for muscle tone or strength. As such, cozy cardio works best when you incorporate it into a balanced workout schedule that also includes resistance training 2-3 times a week.
Having tried cozy cardio, I’m happy to report that it really is an enjoyable way to work out. That said, I also believe that more intense workouts are necessary to optimize fitness.
So, feel free to try cozy cardio for yourself, but don’t expect miracles. It’ll burn calories and improve your health, but its impact will be relatively small compared to more intense workouts.
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