‘Movement is medicine’: Changing the fitness mindset

Contact: Deanne Puca
Exercise equipment in a room with livingroom furniture

Cozy Cardio is the concept of creating a comfortable and pleasing space to exercise in private on your own time.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—As you settle into a cozy nook with your favorite beverage, mood lighting and tunes or your favorite show,  you might not expect your next move to be a workout. Yet, according to the newest fitness trend, this setting might just be the perfect spot for your exercise routine.

Dr. Timothy Michael

Dubbed Cozy Cardio, this concept of creating a comfortable and pleasing space to exercise in private on your own time is not a new one, according to Dr. Timothy Michael, professor of exercise science, but it’s now gaining traction across social media platforms for championing low-impact, easy-movement fitness.

One of the Cozy Cardio pioneers is TikTok’s Hope Zuckerbrow, who has transformed the idea of exercise into a “meditational self-love moment.” Her inaugural video garnered 2 million views, spawning a successful series that landed her a spot on NBC’s TODAY show.

Michael, a certified clinical exercise physiologist, stresses the importance of any movement for its health benefits.

"We prescribe exercise, and movement is medicine,” he emphasizes as a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Referencing research by Dr. James Levine from Mayo Clinic, Michael underscores the significance of small movements, such as fidgeting, throughout the day.

“Bouncing a knee or twirling a pencil may seem inconsequential, but these micro-actions can lead to a notable calorie burn,” he explains. “Encouraging more movement, regardless of its form, is crucial.”

According to Michael, the challenge lies in reshaping the perception of exercise to cultivate a more active lifestyle. “People often feel daunted by rigorous routines or the time commitment,” he observes. “Integrating movement into daily habits is a subtle yet effective way to foster a more active lifestyle.”

Michael, reflecting on his own challenges of inactivity during the COVID-19 pandemic, shared his experience. His decision to adopt a dog compelled him to establish a new routine: daily walks. "Now, it’s second nature,” he admits.

Starting a new health regimen is one aspect; however, planning for inevitable setbacks along the way is equally critical, according to Michael. He says practicing a new habit for the initial three months helps cement new behaviors. “Write yourself an exercise prescription; it’s a script with endless refills,” he says.

He also advocates for personalized approaches to exercise by accommodating individual preferences, be it in a gym, the outdoors or the comfort of one’s home.
The concept of Cozy Cardio emphasizes the need to counteract a sedentary society. Encouraging early action, Michael stresses the importance of not waiting for a health crisis to prompt change.

“Prioritize your health and take proactive steps now,” he advises. “Embracing movement and prioritizing personal well-being are essential for a sustainable, healthier lifestyle.” ■