For many individuals, the idea of breaking a sweat in a crowded, noisy gym or under the scorching sun may not be appealing. If that's you and you're seeking a way to enhance your well-being, consider exploring "Cozy Cardio."
Cozy Cardio has gained popularity thanks to the influence of social media star Hope Zuckerbrow, based in Paradise, Texas. In her TikTok videos, which have amassed an impressive 34 million likes, she can often be seen on a walking pad within her comfortably lit living room, surrounded by coloured lights and candles.
Dressed in pyjamas and a cozy robe, she leisurely strolls on the pad, enjoying her favourite protein coffee drink while watching TV. After about half an hour, she wraps up her session.
Before adopting cozy cardio, Zuckerbrow followed a rigorous workout regimen, complete with loud music, to shed 100 pounds. However, after regaining half of the weight, she decided against returning to an intense exercise routine for the sake of her health.
"I realised I needed to mend my relationship with exercise," Zuckerbrow shared. "Exercise had lost its joy, and I was moving solely to shed pounds, not for the sake of feeling good or being healthy. I aimed to infuse joy into my physical activity."
So, she gathered her favourite items - candles, colourful lights, and protein coffee - and embarked on a slow, relaxing stroll on her walking pad one early morning. Her initial TikTok video of this new exercise routine garnered 400,000 views, and thus, cozy cardio was born. But can a slow, brief walk be an effective form of exercise?
"Getting started with any form of movement is a positive step," affirmed Dr David Sabgir, a cardiologist at OhioHealth Physician Group in Columbus, Ohio. "You can't transition from zero to sixty immediately. Just getting those endorphins and adrenaline flowing can pave the way for a more consistent and intense exercise routine. Indeed, Zuckerbrow now walks at a faster pace and for longer durations than when she began, progressing from 15- or 20-minute walks to 45- or 60-minute expeditions."
"Introducing an accessible approach for people to initiate physical activity is excellent," concurred fitness specialist Nick Occhipinti, an assistant professor of anatomy at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. This is partly because there's an inverse relationship between step count and overall mortality. "The more steps you take, the lower your risk of mortality," added Occhipinti.
While cozy cardio sessions certainly surpass sedentary behaviour, experts emphasise the importance of progressing to more vigorous activities. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans by the US Department of Health and Human Services, adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week.
"If cozy cardio serves as your stepping stone toward achieving higher intensity exercise, that's commendable," Occhipinti noted. "However, if it's your sole form of exercise and you believe it's sufficient, it might be a bit misguided. To transition to moderate-intensity exercise, Occhipinti suggested timing yourself while walking a mile outdoors and aiming to improve your time with each subsequent walk.
Shifting some of your workouts outdoors is ideal, according to Sabgir, as outdoor exercise offers phenomenal health benefits. One study revealed that frequent visits to natural settings were associated with reduced medication use for conditions like high blood pressure and asthma. Additionally, exercising with friends can enhance the experience.
Sabgir initiated the global program "Walk with a Doc" in 2005 to encourage physical activity and address the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Physicians lead patients on outdoor walks within their communities. They soon discovered that the social aspect of these walks was nearly as valuable as the physical exercise.
"Recent medical research has shown that social connections reduce hospitalisations due to respiratory issues in older adults," Sabgir emphasised, adding that social isolation increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Walking with friends also serves as a wonderful distraction, helping divert your attention from anxieties and making the time pass more quickly.
As for Zuckerbrow, her fitness and endurance continue to grow, and she now occasionally substitutes cozy cardio with gym visits. Nevertheless, she has no intentions of completely abandoning her cozy cardio routine.
"I can't envision a future without cozy cardio," Zuckerbrow confessed. "These workouts are like meditative moments and genuinely bring joy to my day."
This approach is perfectly acceptable, according to Occhipinti, as physical fitness is an ongoing journey. "Just get started, take it slow, and be patient," he advised. "Over time, you will reap the rewards."
Sabgir echoed the sentiment, emphasising that easing into a new routine can lay the foundation for long-term success.
"Simply dip your toe in the water," Sabgir recommended. "Start somewhere. That initial step will empower you to engage in more physical activity. I can't recall a single patient who began with something small and stayed that way."
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