The 75 Soft Challenge Is Less Demanding Than 75 Hard—But Is It Healthy?

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With the rise of fitness trends like cozy cardio and accessible at-home workouts, it’s clear that mindful movement is in right now. Even trends like the viral 75 Hard challenge are being modified to embrace a softer approach. Enter the 75 Soft challenge—a.k.a. 75 Hard’s gentler, less intimidating younger sister that still encourages health and wellness (but without the boot camp-like intensity).

ICYMI, 75 Hard began in 2019 and quickly became famous for its strict, all-consuming rules (think: work out twice a day, stick to a specific diet, and more for 75 days straight). In 2021, Ireland-based fitness influencer Stephen Gallagher debuted a less intense version of the regimen called the “75 Soft Challenge.” “It’s like the 75 Hard, but for people who don’t have the time for two 45-minute workouts a day,” Gallagher said in the video, which now has over 2.5 million views.

While 75 Soft is still a big commitment like 75 Hard, its daily recommendations for exercise, diet, and self-care are beginner-friendly, less aggressive, accessible and more realistic. The best part? Recovery days are encouraged during 75 Soft, not prohibited. Ahead, experts share the rules, benefits, and potential risks of 75 Soft—plus, how to try it yourself.

Meet the experts: Casey Kelley, MD, is the founder and medical director of Case Integrative Health. Laura Purdy, MD, is a family medicine physician and medical director of SWELL Medical (SMed). Julie Wilcoxson, CPT, is a personal trainer and certified nutrition therapy practitioner.

75 Hard Rules Vs. 75 Soft Rules

Although 75 Hard and 75 Soft sound almost identical, 75 Hard encourages a strict regimen with little room for error, meanwhile, 75 Soft takes a more relaxed approach.

75 Hard Challenge Rules:

  • Complete two 45-minute workouts per day (one must be outdoors)

  • Stick to a diet (no alcohol or "cheat meals") for 75 days

  • Drink a gallon of water daily

  • Read 10 pages of a book per day of a non-fiction book

  • Take a progress picture every day

  • If you skip a day, you must start over at "day one"

“In 75 Hard, the requirements include two daily workouts (one outside), abstaining from alcohol, taking a progress picture daily for 75 days, and consuming a gallon of water daily, with any slip-ups resulting in starting over from day one,” says Julie Wilcoxson, CPT, a personal trainer and certified nutrition therapy practitioner based in Nashville. “Having completed the 75 Hard challenge myself, I can attest that it’s designed for those seeking a rigorous mental and physical test—more suited for advanced exercisers,” she says.

75 Soft Challenge Rules:

  • Eat well and only drink alcohol on social occasions

  • Train for 45 minutes every day with one day of active recovery per week

  • Drink three liters of water per day

  • Read 10 pages of any book

On the other hand, 75 Soft takes the original rules and turns down the intensity. “The 75 Soft challenge necessitates maintaining a healthy diet, only drinking alcohol during occasional social instances, 45 minutes of exercise daily, one recovery day a week, and drinking three liters of water every day,” says Casey Kelley, MD, the founder and medical director of Case Integrative Health.

Apart from the diet and exercise-focused rules, both versions also encourage reading. “While both challenges require daily reading, the 75 Hard challenge has a strict requirement of 10 pages of a non-fiction, self-improvement book, while the 75 Soft challenge is less prescriptive about the type of book, allowing you to read based on your interests,” Dr. Kelley says.

Benefits Of The 75 Soft Challenge

It’s more accessible and beginner-friendly than 75 Hard.

Instead of putting pressure on yourself to exercise twice a day, 75 Soft allows you to choose your own adventure—as long as you commit to 45 minutes of daily movement. “With 75 Soft, you don’t have to do any specific types of workouts—you just need to move your body daily in some way,” says Laura Purdy, MD, a family medicine physician and medical director of SWELL Medical (SMed). “This makes exercising feel less intimidating and gives people the confidence and courage to start.”

On 75 Soft, you’re encouraged to work out six days a week and eat generally healthy foods, however, you don’t have to stick to an overly strict diet and exercise plan as you do on 75 Hard. Unlike 75 Hard, you also don’t have to completely start the challenge over if you miss a day. So if you’re feeling sick ahead of your workout, want to take a day off from the gym, or you’re on your period (and a workout is the last thing you want to be doing), it's A-OK.

It may encourage a better relationship with food and exercise.

75 Soft is all about feeling good physically and mentally. Taking progress pics isn't part of the equation, and you don't have to be as strict with nutrition and movement. “By focusing on moderation and mindful eating and exercise rather than restriction and deprivation, you’re integrating healthier habits into your daily routine in a balanced and sustainable way,” says Dr. Kelly. “Remember that you’re aiming for progress, not perfection.”

75 Soft is easier to sustain long-term (without burnout).

During a rigorous challenge like 75 Hard, you may experience some athletic burnout about halfway through, says Dr. Kelly. This most likely won’t occur with the 75 Soft as it's designed around your comfort, giving you the flexibility to find a routine that works for you. “75 Hard’s strict requirements can be mentally exhausting and unsustainable for many, whereas 75 Soft’s approach is more balanced,” says Dr. Kelly. “Because you can tailor the challenge to fit your unique lifestyle and preferences, 75 Soft is more likely to endorse sustainable, healthy habits while avoiding burnout.”

It combines physical and mental wellness.

When was the last time you tried a fitness challenge that encouraged you to read a book every day? Uhh… most likely never. By combining mental and physical practices, 75 Soft reminds you that one cannot exist without the other. “Taking a moment out of your day to decompress, pick up a good book, and let yourself completely focus on a new hobby can have major mental health benefits which in turn can make your physical activities more productive,” says Dr. Purdy.

Risks Of The 75 Soft Challenge

The pressure to check off goals might encourage perfectionism.

For some gym-goers, a checklist of tasks can serve as a helpful daily reminder. But for others, it might suggest that you’re not trying “hard enough” or even failing if you don't complete every activity. “To avoid this contradictory mindset, I suggest introducing one new healthy habit at a time, gradually incorporating more into your everyday routine as you feel comfortable,” Wilcoxson says. “Because this journey will take up over two months of your year, it’s important to approach it with a sense of self-compassion and understanding.”

There’s still a physical challenge (and risk of injury) involved.

Just like any long-term physical challenge, your body will change as the days continue. Because of this, always adapt and modify your physical activities to avoid injury, Dr. Kelly says. “Be prepared to adjust your plans based on what you’re learning about yourself and your needs. The goal of the 75 Soft is to foster sustainable habits, so flexibility is key,” says Dr. Kelly. It's okay to have “off” days—what matters most is staying consistent and continuing to make choices that align with your long-term health and happiness.

How To Try The 75 Soft Challenge

Establish personal goals.

Ready to jump on the 75 Soft bandwagon? “Start by setting specific goals based on 75 Soft principles—perhaps meeting a certain step count each day [or] finishing a certain amount of books by the end of the month,” says Dr. Kelly. “Then, you can outline a daily schedule that includes time for exercise, nutritious meal planning, adequate water intake, and a set time for reading.” To help yourself stick to your goals, you can even add your schedule to your phone calendar and set notifications for each activity.

Set up your environment for success.

Once your schedule is set, be sure that your environment is ready for this lifestyle change. “If you’re working out at home, establish a consistent workout room or solidify a walking route in your neighborhood, make sure your kitchen is prepped to cook healthy meals, and set up a reading nook that speaks to you and is something you look forward to every day,” says Dr. Purdy. And since there aren’t any required exercises, be sure to research workouts that match your goals ahead of time and set them for each day—think pilates on Mondays, a "hot girl walk" on Tuesday afternoons, weight lifting at the gym on Wednesday evenings…you get it.

Find an accountability partner.

If you’re worried about staying motivated, an accountability partner could be your missing piece to completing the 75 Soft challenge successfully, Wilcoxson says. “Find someone who will support you on your journey and with whom you can check in daily to share your accomplishments,” Wilcoxson says. “This person should offer encouragement and motivation rather than scrutinizing your progress, and together you can uplift each other as you work towards your goals.”

Commit to a routine.

Sticking to a consistent routine each day can help the 75 soft challenge feel more attainable, Dr. Kelly says. For instance, if you struggle to drink enough H2O, bake it into your schedule in the A.M. so you won't forget, she says. It may also help to stack your activities together (think: drinking water while reading or enjoying a full water bottle during your 45-minute workout). After just a few days of implementing these habits into your daily routine, they’ll start to feel like second nature.

Document your progress (and celebrate your wins).

Keeping a wellness or fitness journal throughout the challenge is a must. Not only will journaling allow you to track your progress and achievements over time, but it can also serve as a motivational tool. “Journaling will help you focus less on the numbers and instead celebrate every extra pushup, each additional glass of water, and every small victory along the way,” says Wilcoxson. “By reflecting on your reasons for undertaking the challenge, journaling will serve as your fuel during moments when motivation may wane, which will undeniably happen.”

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