If you find the notion of “no pain, no gain” overwhelming when it comes to working out, TikTok’s new trend of “cozy cardio” might be the trick that makes exercise more enjoyable for you.
The idea behind it, which began with TikTok creator Hope Zuckerbrow who coined the term when she started posting her early-morning cardio routines back in 2022, is that sweating in smelly gyms and constantly pushing our muscles to the limit doesn’t have to be the only way to work out. Instead, cozy cardio offers a more relaxed approach to movement with more emphasis on low-impact exercises in an environment that welcomes dim lighting, comfortable clothing, and even watching your favorite TV shows.
Cozy cardio is a blend of exercise with self-care that actually might inspire people to add more physical activity into their daily routine. But is it the best method of exercise if you’re looking to add progressions to your workout, and can you really get a good workout from it?
Who is cozy cardio best suited for?
According to Jennifer Renfroe, senior vice president for group fitness at Crunch Fitness, cozy cardio is best suited for a wide variety of people—from people just beginning their fitness journey to avid workout participants.
“For the person just starting to explore exercise, cozy cardio is a great way to move your body in a way that feels good while providing both physical and mental benefits in a space that allows a feeling of connection and comfort,” she says.
Specifically, she says cozy cardio provides multiple benefits for beginners, including reducing and overcoming exercise anxiety by creating a safe and comfortable space to try new things or start a fitness journey. Zuckerbrow herself says in this TikTok that she started cozy cardio “to help heal my relationship with exercise.”
Additionally, Renfroe calls cozy cardio an ideal way to “help train the body and mind to welcome exercise by making it both approachable and achievable by doing exercise with personal comforts, whether it’s your favorite sweatshirt, playing mood-boosting music, or other personal items to enhance a true sensory journey.”
For people who are already committed to exercising on a regular basis, Renfroe says cozy cardio provides the ability to workout anytime and on each person’s individual schedule and “is a great way to incorporate a comfortable, low-impact workout into your routine and stay connected to movement and mindfulness, fueling both the body and soul.”
But is cozy cardio enough of a workout?
Cozy cardio is meant to be low-impact and comfortable, which Renfroe says is OK no matter what your fitness level is. “Not all exercise has to be intense,” she says. “It is a great option for people of all fitness levels, and the key is to listen to your body and know when to be cozy, like when you need a break from vigorous cardio, are rehabbing an injury, or are just starting to incorporate cardio into your workouts.”
When it comes to progressing your exercise routine, Renfroe says cozy cardio provides a foundational way to increase the time and intensity of a workout. “Listen to your body, and learn when to elevate the workout experience by asking yourself if you could have done more today,” she recommends. “If the answer is yes, try increasing the time of the workout gradually to assess where you are in your comfort zone. You can start to push slightly outside of your ‘cozy’ zone and spend the last five minutes challenging yourself to a new level of work.”
Eventually, she says, that new level will fall inside the space you consider cozy, and you will need to ramp up the workout to find a new challenge. As a result, “cozy cardio is an easy way to get yourself to gradually step outside your comfort zone, and as your body adapts to the new challenge, continue to introduce new and more intense activity so your body does not plateau,” she says.
How to make cozy cardio work for you
Renfroe says cozy cardio is beneficial to work into your normal fitness routine and is easy to mix and match with more intense workouts. “You can try alternating workout days across cozy, moderate, and intense levels as you progress through the week,” she suggests. “Take one day off to rest and then tackle the next week stronger with increased endurance and energy.”
Alternatively, Renfroe says you can make your cozy cardio session more challenging too. “Gradually add intervals into your workout, alternating cozy, slower periods with more intense work periods so the workout has distinct periods that challenge the body,” she says. “Any movement is a plus, but alternating shorter, more intense efforts with longer cozy periods is a great way to ramp up your workout.”