I consume quite a bit of online fitness content. It’s the nature of my job. Quite often, I get recommended on my feed clips of influencers running at night, gymming in the early hours of the morning, and people who are obviously on steroids, or using filters to change the shapes of their faces and bodies.
They’re the hardest workers in the room, rising and grinding, going hard rather than going home. It’s exhausting to watch, and I can see why it’s off-putting for new fitness starters. The influencers pushing the limits, using performance-enhancers, and editing their pics to attain perfection make exercise – and by extension, themselves – unattainable.
Therefore, it was quite refreshing to run across 'cozy cardio', the latest trend making low-impact exercise accessible and acceptable using the best under-desk treadmills at home. First popularized by TikToker Hope Zuckerbrow, she uses her walking pad for 30 minutes while watching TV, reading or listening to lofi music, occasionally wearing a fluffy bathrobe and sipping a protein coffee.
The trend exploded, getting reported on in several major news outlets (including, apparently, this one), and similar to its predecessor, the ‘hot girl walk’, the concept is aimed at making exercise a comforting, healing activity for people who might be intimidated by the gym or running outdoors. Walking to lose weight, sure, but also walking for pleasure and, well, coziness.
I’m not intimidated by either the gym or running, and I normally detest wellness trends on social media. They’re rarely backed by science and occasionally promote people doing potentially dangerous things for clout rather than health. However, this trend is anything but. Bringing exercise into your comfort zone with a low-intensity workout, in your own space on your own terms, is great. I love the idea of using exercise as a comforting, healing activity, and I’m a huge lofi music fan.
For those who decry the trend’s followers as ‘not working out properly’ or ‘hard enough’, I’d say it’s far preferable to not working out at all, as it’s beneficial for both body and mind. The Journal of the American Medical Association found that “associations between physical activity and depression suggest significant mental health benefits from being physically active, even at levels below the public health recommendations."
Another report from Cambridge University found that 11 minutes of brisk walking every day is enough to reduce your risk of early death. Clearly, any amount of extra walking you can fit into your day is a Good Thing.
A sedentary lifestyle can be toxic for both body and mind, and activity – even low-intensity, enjoyable activity – is the panacea. If you don’t want to walk in the dark winter months, under-desk treadmills (or walking pads) are a way to get your steps in while you’d otherwise be watching one of the best streaming services.
Below are three of the best under-desk treadmills, or walking pads, we’ve tested, and the ones I’d recommend getting for all your cozy cardio needs. There are likely to be heavy discounts on many under-desk treadmills during the Black Friday sales period, and these are a few models worth keeping an eye out for. I'd also recommend getting one of the best fitness trackers to keep an eye on your step count.
Bluefin Fitness Task 2.0
The best under-desk tread for those on a budget, the Fitness Task is light, slim, and still adequate for home use, able to be folded up and wheeled under a bed or behind a cupboard. That being said, at 64 x 27 x 6 inches, the belt is long and wide enough to be comfortable and safe even at an 8km/h gentle jog, its top speed.
Lifespan TR1200 DT3
The best for most people. Six impact-absorbing shocks to help dampen noise and an automatic stop when you step off the device means the TR1200 is safe and quiet. It’s a bit on the bulky side and it isn’t cheap, but great if it’s staying put in a home office.
Kingsmith Walkingpad C2
Best for storage. Not only does the Kingsmith Walkingpad wheel away but it also folds like a suitcase, perfect for stuffing in a cupboard or standing in a corner out of sight. It’s not perfect, but an ideal alternative to the sofa during the winter.
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Matt is TechRadar's expert on all things fitness, wellness and wearable tech. A former staffer at Men's Health, he holds a Master's Degree in journalism from Cardiff and has written for brands like Runner's World, Women's Health, Men's Fitness, LiveScience and Fit&Well on everything fitness tech, exercise, nutrition and mental wellbeing.
Matt's a keen runner, ex-kickboxer, not averse to the odd yoga flow, and insists everyone should stretch every morning. When he’s not training or writing about health and fitness, he can be found reading doorstop-thick fantasy books with lots of fictional maps in them.