Curious About Apple Fitness+? Here Are 3 Reasons Why It’s Not Just Another Workout App
Apple, ever heard of it? Just kidding, we know you’re reading this on your iPhone 11. Just like I’m writing it on my MacBook Air while checking a text on my Apple Watch and charging up my Airpods Pro.
It’s no secret that the tech giant is everywhere, but earlier this fall Apple made an announcement none of us saw coming: Apple Fitness+. A workout app? Really? To say I was intrigued would be an understatement. Now, Apple doesn’t do anything half-assed. They go all in. Heck, more often than not they set the damn standard. But in an already saturated digital fitness industry, could its newest creation really level up to the Pelotons and the Openfits of the world? After making its debut on December 14, I waited approximately 30 seconds before giving it a try. Long story short, I liked it...a lot. Here’s everything you need to know about Apple Fitness+, including why it’s not just another workout app.
1. Seamless Device Connectivity + À La Carte Workouts
OK, the first thing to know? You need an Apple Watch to access Apple Fitness+. I know, a bit of a bummer if you prefer analog to digital, but this caveat exists for a reason. The new streaming service lives in the pre-existing Apple Fitness app (which was already tracking your walks, runs and at-home workouts), so right off the bat, you don’t have to download a new app or figure out a new system. Nicely done, fruit. From there, you can use your iPhone, iPad or Apple TV to access the library of 200+ workouts that feature nine different exercise methods, including HIIT, yoga, core, strength, treadmill, cycling, rowing, dance and a whole section dedicated to mindful cooldowns.
Your watch automatically connects to whatever device you’re streaming on, so once you select your workout du jour the three-second countdown begins. Need to pause to answer the doorbell? No problem, you can do that directly through the watch on your way upstairs. No need to lunge for your phone or dig through the couch for the remote. Your workout metrics (which we’ll dive into later) appear on both your watch as well as your screen, so you can have a real-time look at your heart rate and calorie burn as well as the time elapsed or time remaining, depending on which form of torture you prefer. What I love most is how seamlessly all of this comes together without having to queue up multiple programs and tracking features. Try starting your fitness tracker while opening a workout video and screen mirroring your phone to the TV—it ain’t easy. At a glance, I can conveniently see how long a workout session will be, what equipment will be needed (if any), what kind of music is included and which trainer will be leading me through it. Like most of Apple’s products, it’s intuitive, easy to use and smartly designed. A for...Apple?
For me, going to work out used to be an event. Now, because of the pandemic, exercising involves a quick outfit change and some light redecorating. This does not a motivating space make. And the sheer thought of doing a 60-minute yoga flow surrounded by distractions is enough to make you throw in the towel and call it a day. So, rather than suffering through one long workout, I choose to go á la carte—and Apple Fitness+ makes that possible. With multiple different modalities that range in time from 5 minutes to 45 minutes, I can start with the aforementioned yoga flow and end with, well, whatever I want. My current progression goes something like this: 20-minute HIIT with Bakari or Kim, 20-minute strength with Betina or Sam, 10-minute core with Gregg or Amir and a 5-minute cooldown with Jessica or Dustin. Each workout blends seamlessly into the next, both physically and visually, and I love that, at the end of the day, I’m the one in charge. Plus, once you start it’s hard to stop (even if you’d rather be eating pizza on the couch). Begin with a shorter interval workout and see how your mind and body align. You’ll feel invigorated to keep going or content with what you've already accomplished—and both are A-OK in my book.
2. The Metrics + Music
Now, back to the metrics. With each new workout, Fitness+ is tracking your heart rate, calories, movement time, activity ring levels and burn bar status. The metrics settings sync from device to device, so however you prefer to view those numbers will carry over from your watch to the screen. During your workout, you’ll get a real-time look at how hard your body is working. If the trainer tells you to keep an eye on your heart rate, that number will automatically grow in size for easy viewing, even when you’re mid dumbbell clean. Your heart rate is the number one indicator of physical effort, so seeing where it falls both at baseline and at your peak will help you better understand your overall fitness—including when to ease up and when to power through (hey, the numbers don’t lie). There’s even a way to see how your effort stacks up against others who’ve completed the same, say, 20-minute treadmill run. It’s basically Apple’s version of a leader board and takes into account an individual's weight to correctly compare the calories burned. Nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, right?
Apple also put a huge emphasis on music when creating its library of workouts. It’s a subtle element that you might not even notice at first, but it’s key to the overall app experience and is a standout feature when comparing it to other streaming services. Each class is set to a particular genre of music, including throwback hits, Latin grooves, upbeat anthems and everything in between. If you’re extra picky, you can even filter by genre when using the search feature. Before starting, you can view the full playlist in the workout preview page. As you move from song to song during class, the title and artist will pop up in the right-hand corner, so you can make a mental note of that Shakira banger you’re hearing (and loving) for the very first time. Can’t get enough of a particular mix? Fitness+ also connects directly to Apple Music, so if you have a subscription you can listen to your ‘Core with Kyle’ playlist while washing the dishes or watering the plants.
3. The Trainers + Training Progression
IMHO, the trainers are the heart of any fitness offering, whether that be digitally or in-person. And by focusing on diversity and a passion for movement, Apple absolutely crushed this one. They compiled a team of 21 expert trainers from all walks of life, ranging in age, ethnicity, gender and body type. Rather than scooping up the instructors with the most likes and followers, they sought after trainers that could transcend the screen and make the minutes fly by while remaining engaging and present. As specialists in their field, these trainers are powerhouses on their own, but, collectively, they create a positive and multidimensional experience that’s not only inviting but also highly motivating (and did anyone else notice the inclusion of sign language?). They strike the perfect balance between aspirational and relatable without being too intense or overly cheery. You’ll fall in love, you’ll have your favorites and, let’s be honest, you’ll probably follow them on Instagram.
Between the technology, the metrics and the world-class trainers, it might seem like Apple Fitness+ is an app geared toward the advanced. In actuality, it was designed specifically with beginners in mind (in addition to the committed enthusiast). Right from the start, there’s an Absolute Beginner program composed of seven workouts designed for anyone who is brand-new to exercise or looking to start back up. Once you’ve mastered those, you’ll have the knowledge and skills to move on to the studio workouts. But exercise is nothing without modifications—we can’t all do the splits or deadlift a 30-pound dumbbell. In each studio workout, you’ll notice three total trainers: the lead and two supports. The support on the left side of the screen will always provide modifications for the current move, whether that means adjusting for limited mobility, keeping things low impact or practicing sans weights. If your knee is acting up or your hips are super tight, you have a built-in trainer to show you exactly how to safely modify while still breaking a sweat, resulting in a clear, consistent and inclusive training progression. No guessing required.
My Final Thoughts
In a time when working out at home feels more like a burden than a convenience (and, ahem, a privilege), Apple Fitness+ has breathed new life into our basements and living rooms. And though it wasn’t built for a strictly at-home experience, it’s proven to be an industry disruptor less than one month since it’s inception. As high-tech, broad-spectrum workout apps go, it’s even surprisingly affordable: $10/month or $80 for the full year (plus, you can share any Fitness+ subscription with up to five other people in your family using the Family Sharing feature). And with dozens of new workouts being added each week, you’ll never get bored of closing your rings. Bravo, Apple.