Apple Fitness+: Fantastic if you own the right stuff
Apple’s fitness classes are outstanding, but hardware cost will be a major hurdle for many.
Fitness+ is a subscription service to an ever-expanding library of workout videos. It works in tandem with an Apple Watch to help you exercise. My colleague Daiana and I tried it out.
Fitness+ costs $17 a month or $140 annually. It’s cheaper than any gym membership – however, you also need the right devices and equipment.
Device and equipment cost
To use Fitness+ you need an Apple Watch and an iPhone to pair it with. Both need to be new enough to be compatible, but support does stretch back to the Watch Series 3 (2017) and iPhone 6s (2015).
If you’re short a device (or, gasp, both) you’re facing $349 minimum for a watch and $749 for a phone (if you buy new through official channels).
Even then, you’re stuck watching on a smartphone screen. You could buy a stand but really, a larger screen is called for. An iPad gives an incremental size gain, but we’d recommend using a TV when working out at home. Until recently, your only option was an Apple TV box, which costs an additional $300. However, Fitness+ workouts can now stream to any smart TV that supports AirPlay 2, Apple’s streaming system. That includes most new Samsung, LG and Sony TVs.
Half the workout types don’t require anything more than an exercise mat. But most strength workouts require dumbbells, and you need the relevant machines for cycling, running and rowing.
Fitness+ workouts are so good, we can’t think of a way they could improve. They’re fun, inclusive and remove the embarrassment of exercising with other people.
Each workout has four variables:
- Exercise type. Choose from high-intensity interval training, dance, yoga, core, strength, cycling, treadmill, rowing and mindful cooldown (yoga-lite sessions you tack on to the end of a workout).
- Trainer. An outstanding roster of instructors provide bundles of positive motivation. We appreciated the diversity in age, ethnicity and background.
- Length. Workouts range from 5 to 45 minutes, depending on the exercise type. Most are between 10 and 30 minutes.
- Music type. Each workout has a unique playlist from one of nine categories, which range from Throwback Hits to Latin Grooves.
There are plenty of classes to choose from, with more added every week. The glut of content meant we could be selective with what we engaged with – favourite styles of music, or certain trainers (we gravitated to coaches we wanted to be friends with). The home page features both curated workout lists and algorithmic suggestions based on your previous activity.
Workouts don’t have difficulty levels. Instead, the lead instructor is usually joined by another trainer who demonstrates simpler moves to accommodate those with weak joints or less flexibility. The “Workouts for Beginners” series, which teaches the basics, was very useful given my lack of yoga experience.
Time to Walk
Fitness+ includes Time to Walk, a relaxing podcast series of famous people walking, to be enjoyed while you perambulate yourself. I listened to Malcolm Gladwell ruminate about his parents, while Daiana heard Dolly Parton discuss her career.
Episodes are downloaded to your watch, so you can leave your phone at home. However, we found it finicky to get the Bluetooth connection between watch and headphones to work.
Biometrics from your watch supplement your workouts. A corner of the screen houses data on calories burned, current heart rate, and distance travelled (where relevant). Trainers sometimes refer to raising your heart rate or getting extra distance for extra motivation.
A “Burn Bar” appears during cardio workouts. It maps your heart rate against aggregate data of everyone who’s done the workout before you, to indicate how hard you’re working. There’s little scientific value, but it was fun to see how we compared. Plus, it feels good regardless of whether you’re burning more than average (“I’m getting great exercise!”) or less (“I’m so fit!”).
Your daily fitness goals tick up in another corner of the screen. When I finished my 60-minute exercise goal during a class, the animation gave even more endorphins than usual.
Daiana and I both loved using Fitness+. It was liberating not having to work out with judgmental strangers, and motivation was easier because we didn’t have to leave our homes.
If you already have an iPhone, Apple Watch and Apple TV, we’d really recommend the free trial. If you like it, you could even cancel your gym membership and use the savings to buy weights or your own treadmill or rowing machine.
While the justification is much harder if you don’t own Apple devices, it depends what you get from your gym. If you only do cardio, it could be worth cancelling for a year and investing in Fitness+ instead.
However, for me and Daiana, the cost to convert to Apple’s ecosystem is too great. For now, we’ll stick with our pre-Fitness+ ways.