As the coronavirus pandemic drags on and with several winter months left to keep most of us stuck indoors, exercise has been hard to come by lately. Home fitness apps and high-end equipment like Peloton may help fill the void — and in January Apple launched its entry into the market.
Called Apple Fitness+, this service allows users to stream a variety of workouts led by personal trainers. It includes workouts for a stationary bike or a rowing machine, as well as aerobic sessions, yoga, high-intensity interval training, resistance training and more. Apple Fitness+ also monitors metrics like calories burned, heart rate and individualized fitness goals.
If you are looking for a new home fitness program or are just realizing it’s time to do something besides binge-watching Netflix, here’s all you need to know about Apple Fitness+.
In the Apple Universe
The first thing to understand is that Apple likes to keep everything in-house. That means you can’t use its fitness app without being in the Apple-verse. At minimum, you must have an Apple Watch Series 3 or later. To fully take advantage of the service you also should have one or more of their other products: iPhone, iPad or Apple TV.
If you own or buy the appropriate Apple Watch, Apple Fitness+ will automatically appear in the Fitness app on your iPhone. The Fitness app is available to download from the App Store for an iPad and on Apple TV. Each needs recent software updates to work.
According to Apple, if you buy an Apple Watch Series 3 or later you can use Apple Fitness+ free for three months. If you need to update your iPhone and Apple Watch to the latest version of iOS, you have three months to redeem the offer.
If you like your trial and decide to sign up, the service costs $9.99 a month or $79.99 a year, and can be shared with up to five family members. Many of the workouts don’t require any special gym equipment. Some do — and Apple is happy to sell you those as well — but of course you can buy dumbbells, exercise bikes, rowing machines, treadmills, yoga mats and blocks anywhere you like.
If you are an absolute beginner to exercise, there is an instructional program called, yes, Absolute Beginners to teach the basics of fitness. The workouts themselves run from easy to expert, and each session is led by three trainers, one leading the way, one showing how to modify it to make it easier, one adding more difficult modifications.
Apple plans to release new workouts and features regularly, and in mid-January it added Time to Walk, which they describe as “short podcast episodes” available directly on the Apple Watch. They feature celebrities, including Shawn Mendes, Dolly Parton, Draymond Green and Uzo Aduba, talking about themselves, playing tunes that mean something to them and essentially keeping you company while you walk for 25 to 45 minutes. Apple says that each celebrity actually walked somewhere meaningful to them while they recorded their episode.
What the Experts Say
Like most Apple products, Fitness+ is great to look at. “It’s actually a pretty well- and thoughtfully designed service,” says Victoria Song, a consumer tech reporter with Gizmodo. After trying more than 40 of the workouts, Song found them “very easy to incorporate into your daily routine.”
Apple Fitness+ also stresses accessibility and inclusivity. “There are instructors of every body type and every color. All of the instructors use American Sign Language at some point. There was an amputee instructor. It’s nice to see all that,” Song says. “If you are alienated to other fitness programs, this might make you feel welcome.”
The service caters more to those just starting out or getting back into fitness — which makes it a bit easy for more seasoned exercisers. “If you really love to serious weightlift, with kettlebells or barbells, this is not the app for you,” Song says.
Cherlynn Low, reviews editor for Engadget, tends to agree. “I do a lot of yoga, and I didn’t find the yoga challenging enough,” she says. “The only challenging ones for me were the HIIT and core (workouts), just because that’s my personal weaknesses.” On the plus side, “I really liked the instructors, and I am generally pretty picky about instructors.”
Both Song and Low agree that if you already own the requisite Apple products and are looking for something new, Apple Fitness+ is certainly worth a free trial. But “I don’t think this is enough to make me want to go out and get an Apple Watch,” which costs about $200, Low says. Song adds, “You have to be aware of what Apple is doing. They want to get you deeper into the Apple universe.”
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