I Tried TikTok’s “Cozy Cardio” Trend, and It Transformed My Workout Routine

published Jan 5, 2024
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Credit: Erin Derby

Exercising during the winter leaves you with a few options, from bundling up for a brisk walk to joining a gym or taking classes. If you’re not sold on the idea of going out in the cold or sweating it out in a room full of strangers, though, there is an alternative. Welcome to “cozy cardio,” which involves doing low-impact exercise from the comfort of your own home.

What is the “cozy cardio” trend?

Cozy cardio is, as it sounds, a softer approach to home fitness, involving low-impact exercise and surroundings that make you feel comfortable. “Cozy cardio romanticizes the idea of exercise by combining low-impact exercise with things we already love like a cozy space, a tasty drink, and your favorite show or podcast,” says Alissa Tucker, AKT master trainer. 

TikTok creator Hope Zuckerbrow created the cozy cardio trend as a way to heal her 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 or a means of solely working off the calories from their last delicious meal,” Zuckerbrow says in one of her TikTok videos, which have collectively garnered more than 36 million likes.

Her version of cozy cardio includes a walking pad, candles for mood lighting, fuzzy socks, a protein coffee drink, and a movie playing in the background. But, she says, “Cozy looks different for everyone.”

With my interest piqued, I tried the cozy cardio trend for myself and asked a fitness expert for their thoughts on this low-impact workout. Here’s what I loved about it.

It changed my mindset around exercise.

Whether it’s resolutions to achieve a “summer body” or slogans telling you “no pain, no gain,” too often exercise can sound like an all-or-nothing pursuit. For me, cozy cardio takes a gentler approach by giving you credit for just moving your body.

On Sundays, walking on the treadmill for 20 to 30 minutes and cooling down with gentle stretches feels like I’m caring for my body and conserving energy for a busy week ahead of me. I can keep my pajamas on or opt for a pair of comfy joggers and a matching sweatshirt.

It makes exercise accessible and sustainable.

Developing an exercise routine can seem intimidating when you hear about dynamic warm-up stretches, interval training, heart rate zones, and compound exercises. It’s like having to learn a new language before you even get into your workout clothes.

In contrast, cozy cardio “can feel more accessible for people of all fitness levels and more sustainable as a person ages,” Tucker says. It’s gentle on the joints and gets your heart rate up more slowly.

Low-impact exercise carries less risk of injury and is easy to incorporate into your daily routine. For instance, I’ll take the stairs, take a stroll at lunch, or walk to the grocery store. Starting the morning with some stretches at my desk helps me ease into my day before diving into emails.

Credit: Getty Images/fizkes

It helps me listen to my body. 

While the priority is staying cozy, the term low-impact doesn’t necessarily mean low-intensity. “Low-impact cardio can be just as effective as high-impact workouts for cardiovascular health, as well as fat burning,” Tucker adds.

Before trying any new workout, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor. Tucker recommends wearing a heart rate monitor to help with tracking your progress.

Regardless of how much I’m sweating during a workout, staying hydrated is important. I’ll fill a water bottle with ice-cold water or sip on iced coffee in an insulated tumbler.

Tips for Trying Cozy Cardio

If you’re new to cardio or just getting back into a routine, make sure to warm up first. You can do jumping jacks, hip circles, or squats for 30 seconds or try jogging in place. Then end your warm-up by stretching your muscles.

Choose wisely when it comes to footwear. “While comfy pajamas are perfect for cozy cardio, going barefoot or wearing socks might not always be the best option,” Tucker says. There’s a chance of slipping if you’re wearing regular socks or sweating during your workout. She suggests a pair of grip socks instead of sneakers for a more “cozy vibe.”

Whenever possible, opt for a cardio routine that is “functional, meaning it mimics movements that we make in everyday life,” Tucker says. “Dance is one of the best functional cardio exercises because it uses the entire body and gets you moving on all planes of motion.” Creating a cozy setting and working out at my own pace helps take the dread out of exercise. The idea is to make the workout fun and treat it as a form of self-care. “Cozy cardio reminds us that fitness is about moving our bodies, not about having the perfect matching set or pushing to the max every day,” Tucker says.