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Many of us think of cardio as a painful but necessary evil. It often conjures up images of grueling and monotonous hours on the treadmill or the racetrack, with sweat pouring down your face and muscles screaming in protest. 

In other words, cardio is not always fun, and it’s sometimes the last thing we want to do when we have so many other things on our plates. 

But what if you could be cozy and work on your fitness goals at the same time? 

You might have noticed the term “cozy cardio” trending on your social media feeds over the past few months, accompanied by videos of fitness creators bundled up in their comfiest clothes and doing their walking exercises in warm, candle-lit living rooms. 

You might be wondering if a workout that is so, well, cozy could actually be effective. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about cozy cardio and what it can (and can’t) do for you. 

What is “cozy cardio?” 

A woman in pajamas sleepily goes downstairs.

While “relaxing” and “cardio” can feel like complete opposites, cozy cardio enthusiasts argue that you can absolutely do both at the same time. 

“Cozy cardio” is a less strenuous and arguably more enjoyable approach to cardio

While there’s no set definition for this trending workout, it always involves some form of moderate and low-impact cardiovascular activity, like briskly walking on a treadmill or pedaling on a stationary bike, to get your heart rate up and increase your movement. 

But the key word here, and the thing that separates this kind of exercise from others, is “cozy.” 

Creators on TikTok have done “cozy cardio” on their walking pads or treadmills while watching their favorite TV shows, catching up on podcast episodes, and playing video games. They’re often snuggled up in comfortable pajamas and wearing fuzzy slippers instead of running shoes. 

Cozy cardio fans sometimes have whole routines to make their workout spaces relaxing, like lighting candles and having their favorite healthy drinks on hand. 

The term “cozy cardio” has even been used to describe particularly snuggly dog walks around the neighborhood when you pair them with comfortable clothing and a scenic route. 

There are no hard-and-fast rules for this workout trend, which emphasizes comfort and total wellness above all else. 

You can walk as slow or as fast as you’re comfortable with. You can even step in place or use a stepper if you don’t have a treadmill or walking pad in your home. 

The only requirements to do cozy cardio are to move your body to get your heart rate up however you can, in as cozy and relaxing of a setting as possible

In short, “cozy cardio” is less a specific kind of exercise than a more pleasurable approach to your favorite lower-impact workouts like walking or cycling. 

Rather than the typical intense gym scene you might picture when you think of a strenuous cardio workout, cozy cardio emphasizes a homier and perhaps less intimidating approach to movement that can make it more accessible for all kinds of people. 

Is cozy cardio right for me? 

Two people in snow gear hold hands while walking through a snowy landscape.

Beats sedentariness 

One of the biggest reasons to consider adding cozy cardio into your routine is because it’s an easy way to get your body moving, even during times when you need an emotional break. 

Sedentariness is a huge contributor to today’s modern health risks. A lack of movement and more time sitting has been linked to issues like depression, poor cognitive function, and overall poorer health. 

Unfortunately, it’s also easier than ever to move less. For reasons ranging from the screens battling for our attention to the office jobs that glue us to our chairs, many people are finding themselves becoming more and more sedentary. 

As a result, finding ways to move more can be hugely beneficial for your overall activity level. It can even increase your energy expenditure, with studies finding that replacing even one minute of sedentariness with light activity burns an additional calorie

This is where the concept of cozy cardio really starts to shine. It takes an otherwise notoriously sedentary activity, like watching TV or catching up on your favorite podcast, and makes it an activity that contributes to your movement (and, ultimately, your health as a whole). 

Even on days where you’re short on time or are not motivated to hit the gym, cozy cardio offers an easy and less overwhelming approach to reaching your step goals and fending off sedentariness

Suitable for people of all fitness levels

Another major perk of cozy cardio is that it can be done by people of all fitness levels. Most approaches to cozy cardio are fairly low-impact, with walking being the most popular approach.

As a result, cozy cardio is suitable for people who aren’t ready for more strenuous activity, like those who are just starting out on their fitness journeys or folks who can’t do higher-impact movements because of past injuries.

Low barrier

Cozy cardio is an appealing exercise option no matter what kinds of limitations you have that prevent you from getting in — or wanting — a more strenuous workout. 

Because cozy cardio emphasizes wellness and isn’t as intimidating as other forms of exercise, it can be done:  

  • By beginners who are working their way up to bigger workouts but still want to raise their activity level
  • During stormy days when you can’t go outside or travel to the gym
  • On days when you need a mental health break and don’t want to expend energy on anything more challenging
  • When you’re short on time but still want to hit your movement goals for the day  

Can contribute to health and fitness goals 

Finally, virtually everyone can benefit from adding some cozy cardio into their routine since it can help increase your steps for the day. 

Walking has relatively few barriers when compared to other kinds of exercise, but it also is linked to myriad benefits when done regularly. 

For example, studies have found that walking has several cardioprotective and anti-aging benefits for aging populations. Walking briskly for just 30 minutes a day, five days a week, can reduce your risk of various age-related diseases.

By adding the cozy element and allowing people to do their cardio in a less-traditional setting like their own comfy living room, cozy cardio makes it even easier to get those steps in. 

What’s more: regular cozy cardio could even help you make progress with your fitness goals if you do it enough. 

You may have heard the general advice that you should take 10,000 steps a day to lose weight. Studies have found that getting this number of steps per day can potentially contribute to weight loss when paired with other activities, as well as eating habits that lead to a calorie deficit.

Furthermore, walking is still effective if your walks are divided into short bouts that help you reach a target heart rate. Adding cozy cardio to your routine to meet your walking goals can help increase your energy expenditure, all without having to hit the gym. 

A better relationship with fitness

The final (and perhaps most enticing) benefit of cozy cardio is that it can help improve your relationship with fitness and movement. 

While we all know that physical activity is necessary for our health, traditional gyms and intense exercise routines can be intimidating. They can also be really hard on the body, making new exercise routines hard to stick with as a result. 

But the whole idea behind “cozy cardio” is that you can move and challenge your body while still enjoying the process. 

Rather than thinking of it as a chore, as many people view “classic” cardiovascular activities like running or hitting the gym’s treadmill, cozy cardio promotes the idea that you can get your heart rate up and increase your physical activity while hanging out in your favorite place, doing your favorite cozy activities

What cozy cardio can’t do

Two people walk outside in a city.

While cozy cardio can definitely contribute to your overall fitness and help with weight loss goals, it does have some limitations. 

Most notably, cozy cardio generally can’t be relied on alone for major body composition or weight changes if you are not also factoring in your total calorie expenditure vs. your calorie intake

It’s estimated that people need to burn about 3,500 calories in order to lose one pound, but the amount of energy that you expend during a walk can vary based on your weight and body composition, not to mention the intensity of the exercise itself. 

Therefore, if you want to do cozy cardio as part of a weight loss program, it’s important to pair it with the right diet, which will maximize your chances of seeing results. You may also need to incorporate more intense cardio into your routine to increase your calorie deficit.  

In addition, cozy cardio may not be enough exercise on its own if your goals include building muscle. While regular moderate walks can help, you’ll need to incorporate resistance training exercises into your routine, such as weight lifting, to build muscle, especially in your upper body. 

The key takeaway here: cozy cardio is an excellent tool for increasing your physical activity and boosting your overall health, but you may need to add other exercises and consider your diet if you have specific weight loss/body composition goals that you are trying to reach. 

Conclusion 

Cozy cardio is the ultimate marriage of restful self-care and exercise, honoring your body’s need for physical activity. 

It may not be as intense as traditional forms of cardio, making it less effective on its own for reaching health goals, but it’s still an excellent option for people of all fitness levels who want to add more movement to their day. 

So, the next time you just can’t bring yourself to hit the gym, snuggle up in your comfiest clothes, turn on the TV, and bust out your walking pad instead! 

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