Apple Fitness + Review: A great workout at an affordable price for watch owners only

One revelation I had during the coronavirus crisis was that I had no way to pay Jim again. Exercise at home is more affordable and convenient. Depending on the app, it can be quite fun. Goodbye forever, a dirty locker room shower. I’m glad to know you.


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Fitness + is another digital workout subscription that follows Jim’s money. The new program, which launches on Monday, arrives late in the well-established and highly competitive app category, but is on time for people like me who are still experimenting with various online training solutions. However, owning an Apple Watch, which is the main requirement of the app, can turn off anyone who tries it in other ways.

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Fitness + will appear as a new tab in Apple’s existing Fitness app. Your subscription comes with new weekly video workouts across 10 areas, including cycling, treadmill running, yoga, and strength.A fascinating cast of high-energy trainers draped from head to toe with the Nike NKE -0.12%

Affiliated with Apple — Hosts a session. A similarly energetic music playlist acts as a soundtrack. (In most cases, that is, you can select the “Chill Vibes” playlist.)

Compared to similar fitness apps, it’s a relatively good deal. Fitness + costs $ 9.99 per month and you can save by paying $ 79.99 per year. Everyone in Apple’s “family” (up to 6) can access your subscription. And if you’ve already subscribed to Apple Music and 2 terabytes of iCloud storage, you could save even more on the $ 29.95 / month Apple One Premier plan. The most similar app, Peloton Digital, costs $ 12.99 per user per month.

There are pitfalls in not-so-small price tags. A Fitness + subscription requires an Apple Watch, Series 3 ($ 199) or later. The app’s core workout experience is video streamed on your iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV, but you can’t access the app without a smartwatch. If you forget to charge your watch or leave it at home while traveling, you can still access the video and train, but you physically own an Apple Watch to sign up for Fitness +. Must be.

When you open Fitness +, the app syncs easily with your Apple Watch, even if you’re using someone else’s Apple TV.


Nicole Nguyen / Wall Street Journal

When you launch the app, your heart rate and calories data will be displayed on your screen as soon as it syncs with your clock, even if you’re using an Apple TV in someone else’s home. If you’re a subscriber, you can add songs featured in your workout to your Apple Music library. This watch acts as a remote control, allowing you to play and pause classes on other Apple devices.

Apple will also leverage workout data shared with the iPhone’s Health app, including those from third-party fitness apps. Therefore, if you’re doing yoga on Glo or cycling on Peloton, Fitness + uses that history to recommend similar workouts.

The workouts I’ve tried are comparable to the expensive face-to-face versions offered in boutique fitness studios, especially cycling studios. One of the trainers, Ty, is a former SoulCycle instructor. Of course, this training requires an exercise bike setup. Vehicles range from longer 45-minute sessions to ultra-fast 10-minute spree. The workout itself includes a period of fast sprints, slow high resistance rises, and recovery. You can adjust the pedal to the beat or the target number of revolutions per minute called by the trainer. “Burn Bar” boosts competition by comparing your calorie-burning efforts with others who have completed training.

In cycling classes, adjust the pedals to the trainer’s pace.


Nicole Nguyen / Wall Street Journal

There is chill yoga, and there is yoga that gives you sweat and energy. High-intensity interval training, strength training, and core workouts were short, less than 30 minutes, and I often played couples in a row.

Dance and rowing are two areas that are not common in other fitness apps. I didn’t have access to the rowers, but at least I was able to dance. Or try anyway. A hip-hop class workout that included 20 minutes of aerobic exercise was terrible (it was terribly difficult) and ridiculously fun. And according to the numbers on the screen, I’ve successfully raised some calories burned.

What sets Apple’s apps apart is the approach to training beginners. As a kind of introductory course to each area of ​​the app, there is a video starter collection designed for those who do “all new exercises”. And even in more difficult sessions, one of the background trainers is offering a modified version for less advanced practitioners.

Unfortunately for me, there was no “easy” version of the dance workout.

Overall, Fitness + feels like Peloton Digital Lite (which doesn’t exist otherwise). Apple’s apps and Peloton Digital have high production value and motivate music playlists and charismatic trainers. However, Fitness + doesn’t have that many workout types, and the workout library isn’t that big. It also lacks Peloton’s live and social features. The Apple app has one advantage over Peloton. You can download the class and play it offline. You can preload Peloton content for more stable playback, but you need an active internet connection to play your workout.

You can download classes for offline playback, a feature not available in the Peloton app.


Nicole Nguyen / Wall Street Journal

There is plenty of room for improvement. Some high strength, strength, and core workouts require dumbbells, while others do not. For example, I would like to be able to filter the results by “no device” or “weight”.

Fitness +’s focus on metrics can be confusing, especially for beginners who are targeted by the app. Fitness + does not provide any heart rate context. Are the numbers good or bad? Is it higher or lower than a minute ago? Why do you care about your heart rate? Practical insights can help here.

I like Zobah’s approach. The $ 60 / year fitness and nutrition app for iOS only also uses your Apple Watch to measure your heart rate and display the data along with streamed exercises. The app workout is based on heart rate “zone” training. This is an assessment of workout intensity as a percentage of maximum heart rate. In other words, Zova shows you what to do with your number — something Apple can learn.

Still, Fitness + is of great value, at least for Apple Watch owners. But don’t pay yet. A one-month free trial should get you through until sometime in January, read my comprehensive guide comparing top fitness apps.

(Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co. Has a commercial contract to provide news through Apple services.)

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Apple Fitness + Review: A great workout at an affordable price for watch owners only

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