Political polarization. Economic struggles. Inequity. Climate change. War. In an often battered world, people can hardly be blamed for looking for ways to protect themselves. From weighted blankets to “cozy” murder mystery novels to entire restaurants and cookbooks based on childhood comfort foods, the appetite for cozy things continues to grow.
Now some seek solace even in their physical exertion. Apparently, they’re entering the era of “cozy cardio,” an activity that sits right at the crossroads of gym workouts, pamper night, and nap time.
This (minimal) calorie burning method has gained popularity on TikTok and Instagram since a woman named Hope Zuckerbrow started posting videos in late 2022. Let’s describe it by what it doesn’t do. It does not require that you:
- put on spandex sportswear;
- going out into the cold to drive to a fluorescent-lit gym;
- lift heavy things;
- Take your breath away to the rhythm of vibrant music.
Cozy cardio simply involves walking on the spot, in the comfort of your home, using a mini treadmill or “walking pad.” No stress, no membership fees, no grooming by other gym rats who are more cushioned than you. And you can even have a cup of hot tea by your side.
“I get so many messages from men and women, from so many people, saying something like, ‘Thank you so much for changing the way I thought about what I thought exercise was,'” Zuckerbrow says. “This seems so doable.”
Training to pamper yourself
The key is configuration.
Wearing soft sweatpants and your favorite comfy shirt, you light some scented candles, make a healthy smoothie or cup of tea, dim the lights, and put on your favorite TV show or movie. With your drink in hand, you walk for an hour while losing yourself in whatever you’re watching, perhaps walking a little more briskly once you’ve warmed up.
Forget “no pain, no gain.” Cozy cardio recognizes that you may not be able to take much more pain at this particular moment, so just enjoy taking a few steps while watching “The Bear” in your pajamas and call it your workout.
This undated image shows Hope Zuckerbrow, founder of the “cozy cardio” wellness routine. Cozy cardio simply involves walking on the spot, in the comfort of your home, using a mini treadmill or “walking pad.” (Devon Wilson via AP)When Zuckerbrow posts on social media, “80 to 90 percent of the video itself is me romanticizing the exercise I’m about to do,” he says. “I’m making my favorite drink, lighting those candles and my Scentsy, and watching my TV show.”
No, walking will not give you six-pack abs. But could cozy cardio, which encompasses the sexier aspects of being a couch potato while also keeping you off the couch, help even those who avoid the gym keep exercising long after the season ends? new Year’s resolutions?
For people struggling with common barriers to exercise, the answer could be yes, says Alex Montoye, assistant professor of clinical exercise physiology at Alma College in Michigan.
Montoye warns that if you go from a vigorous daily workout to something so gentle, the health benefits can plummet. But for someone who would otherwise watch TV from the couch, she says, it’s progress to watch while walking, especially if it becomes a daily habit.
People have a hard time maintaining healthy habits, which makes comfortable exercise “a great idea,” says Catherine Sanderson, a professor of psychology at Amherst College in Massachusetts and author of “The Positive Shift: Mastering Mindset to Improve Happiness, Health.” , and Longevity.”
“It fits with a lot of what we know about how to get people to actually sustain behavior change,” Sanderson says.
In addition to removing barriers to exercise, he says, “it relies heavily on what psychologists would call positive reinforcement: the idea of, ‘It’s not just that I’m exercising. I’m going to watch my favorite show.’ I’m taking advantage of something I want. do now.”
Eliminate competition by staying at home
The welcoming approach also works for gym-goers who feel burned out at the thought of constantly pushing themselves.
Ko Im, a mental health advocate who has taught yoga and meditation in New York and other American cities, remembers a phase several years ago when “yoga challenges” were a trend.
“It was the yoga pose of the day—really difficult yoga poses,” Im says. More recently, she sees people striving to rank in all of their Peloton classes or lose five more pounds.
“What I like,” he says, “is the idea of enjoying the journey, not the goal. Does it feel good in my body today?”
As cozy cardio gains traction, Zuckerbrow is hearing from people who didn’t know they could enjoy the ride.
Alyssa Royse, owner of Rocket Community Fitness in Seattle, has been alternating between full workouts at her gym and cozy exercise at home. Some days she turns off the sound on her Peloton (“I don’t even want those happy people talking to me”) and just pedals while she watches “the trashiest TV I can find, because it just takes my brain somewhere else.”
The hashtag-friendly name “cozy cardio” might sound like an oxymoron. But maybe, as 2024 takes hold, it will be the compromise our culture needs.
Driving around town in freezing weather and doing an hour of Zumba or lifting 20-pound kettlebells just isn’t possible some days. But lighting a candle in your living room and walking three miles in your pajamas while re-watching the latest season of “Succession”? That is within our reach.
And it could provide enough endorphins and bring enough oxygen to the lungs to deal with whatever global crisis tomorrow may bring.
“Too many people view exercise as an all-or-nothing thing,” Royse says. “It doesn’t give people space to be where they are today. And I think that’s incredibly important.”