“Fitness + motivates you to close your activity rings, but it is lacking in key areas”
Seamless integration with Apple Watch
Diversity of friendly trainers
Variety of training types
New content every week
Requires Apple Watch Series 3 or newer and iPhone
No live lessons
Some exercises require specific equipment
Due to gym restrictions and pandemic issues, many people are building their own home gyms instead of wasting their hard earned money on a gym membership. Services like Apple Fitness + are stepping in to fill this void as the shift to home fitness transforms the fitness industry. Can an online flow replace your in-person Pilates class? We tested Apple Fitness + to find out.
Apple Watch is the feature that kills
Apple Fitness + is available for the iPad, iPhone, and Apple TV, but it was really designed for the Apple Watch. As soon as you open a workout on your iPhone, it immediately appears on Apple Watch. Your watch then sends your health data to your smart device so you can view it while following the trainer’s lead.
I found myself in touch with the trainers and wanted to exercise with them.
As you exercise, you may see your activity rings increase as you get closer to reaching your training goals. You can also see your heart rate, time and calories burned. It’s a small feature, but incredibly motivating to see all of your stats on the big screen. Because it’s on your screen, you don’t have to keep looking at your watch. This is huge for someone like me who might stumble or lose rhythm looking at my wrist.
Apple Fitness + is great for beginner to intermediate level athletes, provided they have the right equipment. Most cardio workouts require a treadmill, bicycle, or stepper machine, and they are not interchangeable. Unlike iFit, which films landscape-based activities suitable for any machine, Fitness + requires you to have a bike to do cycling workouts, for example.
You will also need dumbbells or kettlebells for many strength training activities. You might be able to trade in bodyweight exercises, but it’s not the same thing. You can also skip the workouts that require specific equipment, but eliminating so many exercises has dramatically diminished my experience. Instead of feeling like “I can do”, I often felt like “I couldn’t do” while browsing the workout library. To be fair, Apple offers walking workouts and dance lessons that don’t require any special equipment, but those are rare. I would love to see more of this creative, gear-free content.
This feeling of “impossible to do” was exacerbated by a limited user interface. Fitness + sorts workouts into broad categories (high-intensity interval training, yoga, core, strength, treadmill, cycling, rowing, dancing, and mindful cooldowns) to help you find the right exercise. Once in a category, I found it difficult to find the right workout for my level of fitness. There was no way to filter activities based on difficulty level or required equipment. I had to pick a workout and then read the description to see if it was right for me. This method of hunting and beaking to find an activity was tedious.
Varied and enthusiastic trainers
Apple is the master of looks, so it’s no surprise that Fitness + videos are pretty polished. Videos are filmed in a beautiful studio gym with great camera angles so you can see exactly how the trainer is moving. Workouts feature upbeat music and friendly trainers who encourage you to “close those rings”.
There is no way to filter activities and the hunt and peak method to find a workout was tedious.
Apple sneakers reflect a variety of different ethnicities, ages and body types, which I appreciated. Because they were normal elite athletes and not super fit, I found myself in contact with the coaches and wanting to exercise with them. Their enthusiasm was contagious. Apple is also adding content every week, which keeps me coming back to check out what’s new.
Moderate workouts, but no live content
Fitness + is aimed at the large number of iPhone and Apple Watch owners. It targets the beginner to intermediate level person and not advanced athletes. Established fitness fanatics might use Fitness + to supplement their existing routine or for cross-training on a rest day, but it won’t replace their existing high-intensity routine.
Most workouts are straightforward to follow and some are even scalable, which is a feature other exercise programs should embrace. In these evolutionary strength workouts, you can choose to complete selected activities, take it up a notch with advanced activities, or cut down on exercises if you have an injury or just want to take it easy. This flexibility encourages you to continue even in the event of injury or illness.
As much as I enjoyed Fitness +, the serve has a major Achilles heel. Unlike Peloton or Mirror, which offer an abundance of live classes, Apple Fitness + is unfortunately entirely made up of pre-recorded videos. On-demand workouts are convenient because you can train anytime you want, but they don’t have the community feel of a live class. Hopefully Apple will bring in a few trainers to run live lessons on a daily basis.
Apple Fitness + requires an Apple Watch Series 3 or newer, which will set you back at least $ 199 for a new watch. It also requires a subscription of $ 10 per month or $ 80 per year. The service is also included in the Apple One Premier bundle, which costs $ 30 per month and includes Apple Music, Apple TV +, Apple Arcade, Cloud, and News +. In terms of cost, it’s significantly cheaper than the average $ 40 per month subscription required by most connected home gyms like Mirror, Tempo Studio, and Tonal.
Apple Fitness + is a great workout tool for beginner to intermediate Apple fans who already own an Apple Watch. A growing library of motivational trainer workouts encourages you to exercise. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but it has potential. If Apple listens to its reviews and improves the service, Fitness + could give Peloton a run for its money in the coming year.
Is there a better alternative?
Apple Fitness + shows promise, but it does require an Apple Watch. Not everyone owns an Apple Watch and wants to buy one just for training. Fitness + ‘s most powerful competitor is iFit, which has a large library of pre-recorded studio and outdoor activities and a growing number of live workouts, and does not require a fitness watch. Its price is competitive at $ 10 per month and works on tablet or smartphone.
How long will it last?
Apple is used to supporting and upgrading software on its older devices, and we expect Apple Fitness + to receive the same treatment. The service will improve over time and its shortcomings (no live training, for example) will be a thing of the past.
Should you buy it?
Yes, Apple Fitness + might be exactly what the doctor ordered Apple Watch owners looking to get in shape and stay in shape.