When COVID-19 hit, fitness routines fell by the wayside and we were forced to adapt how we stay active. If you’re still in search of a socially distant way to work out, there’s a new option from the biggest name in tech: Apple Fitness+. Requiring an Apple Watch and an iPhone, this new workout streaming service brings a range of floor- and machine-based classes, including core, dance, HIIT, mindful cooldown, and yoga, to the comfort and safety of your home. Beyond just home workouts, Fitness+ can guide you at the gym (when you’re comfortable going back), with a wide selection of structured cycling, rowing, strength, and treadmill workouts. It offers plenty of variety for everyone from true beginners to exercise enthusiasts, and personalized recommendations make it easy to find classes you’ll like.
If you already own and Apple Watch and an iPhone, monthly access to Fitness+ costs less than a single class at most fitness studios. For $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year, it offers a steady stream of heart-pumping 5- to 45-minute classes featuring high-quality playlists and diverse instructors who will help you stay motivated to close your Apple Watch activity rings day after day. Workout apps are a dime a dozen, but Fitness+ stands out as a top choice for Apple Watch users.
Affordable for Apple Fans, Pricey for Everyone Else
Before going into depth about what Fitness+ offers, let’s first talk pricing and requirements. Basically, if you’re already in the Apple ecosystem, Fitness+ won’t break the bank. The service costs $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year, and can be shared among up to six family members. If you plan to share your subscription, each person will need their own Apple Watch to get personalized suggestions and keep track of their workout metrics. There’s an option to work out on Fitness+ without connecting an Apple Watch, but you won’t see any metrics on the screen.
As of this writing, Apple is offering a three-month free trial to anyone who purchases a new Apple Watch Series 3 or later, while existing Apple Watch users get a one-month free trial. Apple will automatically start billing you when your free trial is up, unless you cancel at least a day before the renewal date. You can cancel early at any time by visiting Settings > Apple ID on your iPhone.
Just keep in mind that Fitness+ requires an Apple Watch (Series 3 or later) paired with a compatible iPhone (an iPhone 6s or newer, or an iPhone SE). For this review, I tested the service on an iPhone 12 Pro Max and an Apple Watch Series 6.
If you don’t already own a compatible Apple Watch and iPhone, access to Fitness+ is costly when you factor in the price of the necessary hardware. There are plenty of quality fitness apps that don’t require an Apple Watch, including FitOn and Nike Training Club, both of which offer free workouts.
Fitness+ is included in the Apple One Premier plan, which also offers access to Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, Apple News+, and 2TB of iCloud storage for $29.95 per month, and can be shared among up to six family members.
You can stream Fitness+ classes on your iPhone, which will come in handy when you’re on the go, but for at-home workouts, you might want to watch on a larger screen for a better viewing experience. If so, you’ll also need a compatible iPad or Apple TV. Fitness+ is compatible with the following models: all iPad Pros, iPad (5th generation or later), iPad mini 4 (or later), iPad Air (2nd generation or later), Apple TV 4K, and Apple TV HD.
You can also use Fitness+ on someone else’s Apple TV, even if they don’t subscribe. All you need to access your Fitness+ account is your Apple Watch. When you open the Fitness+ app on Apple TV, it will scan the room for Apple Watches; just tap your name to access your account and personalized recommendations. This can be convenient if, say, you’re visiting a family member who owns an Apple TV, and want to work out while you’re there.
The service doesn’t stream on any other devices, so if you have a piece of smart gym equipment with a screen, like the Peloton Bike+, you won’t be able to see Fitness+ classes on its built-in display.
If you have the necessary devices, getting started with Fitness+ is simple. It’s available as part of iOS 14.3 and watchOS 7.2, so once you install those updates on your iPhone and Apple Watch, you’re ready to go. On the iPhone, Fitness+ lives in the newly redesigned Fitness app. Once you download the iOS 14.3 update, you’ll see a Fitness+ tab at the bottom of the Fitness app; just tap that to get started.
To get Fitness+ on your iPad, you first need to upgrade to iPadOS 14.3, then go to the App Store and manually download the Fitness app. On Apple TV, the Fitness+ app will automatically appear after you install tvOS 14.3.
Something for Everyone
The Fitness+ interface is friendly and organized, with personalized recommendations and filtering options that make it easy to find classes you might like. Even at launch, there’s plenty of variety for everyone from exercise enthusiasts to true beginners, even those who have trouble with balance or find it difficult getting up and down from the floor.
When you open Fitness+, buttons at the top of the interface let you filter workouts by category: HIIT, yoga, core, strength, treadmill, cycling, rowing, dance, and mindful cooldown. If you’ve never used a rower, stationary bike, or treadmill, Fitness+ can teach you how. Inside each of those category sections, there’s a Getting Started video meant to make you familiar with the equipment and its key features, like how to properly perform a rowing stroke, adjust a cycling bike to your proportions, and safely get on and off a treadmill.
When you select a workout type from the top of the interface, you’ll see a list of classes, which you can filter by trainer, time (5 to 45 minutes), and music. One small gripe here is that I wish some of the class names were more descriptive. Right now they are all pretty generic, with titles like Cycling with Tyrell, Yoga with Dustin, and Strength with Gregg. You can click into each workout for more information, but it would be easier to quickly find a class if the titles gave you more of an idea of what you’re in for.
Below the workout category buttons are sections labeled More of What You Do, Try Something New, New This Week, For Beginners, Popular, Trainers, Simple and Quick, and My Workouts. You can scroll down to see each of these sections, then swipe to the left within each section to see additional content.
More of What You Do and Try Something New both offer suggested classes based on your workout history. More of What You Do serves workouts with the same instructors you’ve taken in the past. Try Something New offers up the same type of workouts you like, but with different instructors.
When making these suggestions, Apple also takes into account workouts you’ve tracked using third-party apps connected to your Apple Health account. If, for instance, you use the popular fitness app Strava to track outdoor runs, and have your Strava account synced to Apple Health, Fitness+ might suggest treadmill workouts. If you’ve been doing a lot of intense workouts, it might suggest a chill session to help you recover.
Unlike many other smart fitness platforms, such as iFit, Obe, OpenFit, and Peloton, there are no live classes on Fitness+ at this time. Apple is focusing on on-demand classes and plans to release new content every Monday across all workout types, trainers, time frames, and genres. You can find all the latest content in the New This Week section.
Apple wants to make Fitness+ accessible for everyone, so the company is placing a big emphasis on beginner-friendly content. The For Beginners section features a series of seven workouts specifically created for those who are completely new to exercise or getting back to it after an extended break. The first four workouts in the series are just 10 minutes each, and designed to teach you basic strength, yoga, HIIT, and core moves. You can then graduate to the final three sessions, which are 20 minutes each. After completing these seven sessions, you should be pretty well prepared to do any of the workouts.
In the Popular section, you can view trending classes across each workout type. In Trainers, there’s a list of Fitness+ instructors; click their image to view a profile page with their bio, a link to their Instagram, and a list of Fitness+ classes they lead. Apple has assembled a diverse group of trainers with expertise in a range of modalities. The trainers are full-time Apple Fitness+ employees, and work as a team to put together the classes and playlists. They take each other’s classes, so you might see Josh Crosby, who leads rowing workouts, in the background of a yoga session modifying the moves so beginners can easily follow along.
The Simple and Quick section features 10- and 20-minute workouts that are easy to modify and require little skill. Finally, in My Workouts, you can view all the classes you have saved on the platform. You can download any of your saved workouts for offline viewing, a feature that can come in handy if you want to get outside and do some yoga at the beach or a park, or if you’re traveling to an area without Wi-Fi.
Fitness+ doesn’t offer any partner-workout features, so friends and family members can exercise alongside you, but it will only show your Apple Watch stats on the screen.
Close Your Rings
Every workout features a detail page with a video preview, written description, and music playlist to help you determine whether you want to take that class. When you find something you’re into, press Let’s Go and Fitness+ will connect with and pull up the corresponding workout type on your Apple Watch for automatic tracking.
I love this feature because I sometimes forget or can’t be bothered to manually start tracking my workouts on other wearables. The Apple Watch can already automatically detect certain types of workouts, including walks, runs, rowing, elliptical, and swimming, and ask if you want to start recording it, then detect when you’re finished and ask if you want it to end tracking. The watch’s tight integration with Fitness+ takes its automatic workout tracking abilities a step further: Every class you take on the service will be automatically recorded without any intervention on your part.
Before the workout begins, a play button will appear on both screens (your Apple Watch and the device you’re viewing the class on), and you can start the session from either. You’ll then see a three-second countdown timer on both screens before the workout begins.
If you need a break at any point, you can pause (or completely end) the workout from either device. This is another small but welcome feature. Controlling Fitness+ playback from your Apple Watch is convenient and intuitive since you can pause, resume, and end a class using the same buttons you’d normally use when tracking a workout (just swipe right on your watch screen to access them).
Note that your Apple Watch needs to be unlocked and have Bluetooth enabled for it to connect with Fitness+. If your Apple Watch is unavailable, you can still do the workout, but you won’t see any metrics on the screen. In testing, I had no trouble connecting my Series 6 with Fitness+.
It’s evident that Apple is working to make Fitness+ an inclusive service, welcoming to not only beginners, but also those who are hearing impaired. At the beginning of workouts, the trainers often incorporate sign language when giving a rundown of the class plan. Subtitles are available, though you can turn them off if you want.
During Fitness+ classes, you see real-time metrics from your Apple Watch on the screen, including your heart rate, calories burned, and activity rings. It shows the elapsed time, but you can switch this to show the remaining time if you prefer. You can also turn off the metrics completely and view the workout in full-screen mode. To customize the metrics you see on the screen, tap the lower right button during the class.
One way Fitness+ aims to keep you engaged is by highlighting different metrics as you exercise. If, for instance, the trainer says to check your heart rate, that metric will animate on screen and show not just your current measurement, but also high and low readings. During intense pushes, you might see a timer showing how much you have left in that interval. And if you close an activity ring during the workout, you’ll see a celebration on screen.
One of the things I really like about Peloton is the important role music plays in the overall experience. Apple has also made music an integral part of Fitness+. As mentioned, you see a playlist before every workout, and you can filter classes by music genre (chill vibes, fitness music, latest hits, pure dance, top country, everything rock, hip-hop/R&B, Latin grooves, throwback hits, and upbeat anthems). During a class, you see the name of the song playing at the top of the screen.
You don’t need an Apple Music account to listen to music during Fitness+ classes, but if you have one, you can quickly save Fitness+ class songs and entire playlists to your account. Peloton still has a leg up in the music department, however, as it lets you connect your Apple Music or Spotify account to save music you hear during classes.
Another key feature on Peloton (and many other smart home gym equipment platforms) that Fitness+ lacks is a class leaderboard. Instead, Apple is fostering friendly competition with a feature called the Burn Bar.
Available during workouts with intense pushes, including HIIT, treadmill, cycling, and rowing, the Burn Bar shows how your effort compares with everyone else in your weight range who previously completed the same workout. This lets you quickly see if you’re starting to fall behind, leading, or somewhere in the middle of the pack. Burn Bar data is anonymized, so it’s never connected to you, and you can disable this feature if you want.
At the end of a workout, a summary page shows all of your stats, including the workout duration, your average heart rate, active and total calories burned, and your Burn Bar results. A record of your workouts is available in the Summary section of the Fitness app.
My Experience With Fitness+
One of the things I like about Fitness+ is that you can combine several 10-minute workouts to reach your exercise goal for the day, or do a longer session, perhaps followed by one of the short mindful cooldowns. If you like to dabble with different exercise modalities, Fitness+ has you covered with plenty of variety.
So far, I’ve mostly taken the 10-minute classes so I can get a feel for the various workout types. On my first day testing Fitness+, I did three 10-minute classes: a yoga session, followed by a cycling workout (using a NordicTrack Commercial S22i Studio Cycle), then a mindful cooldown. This was a perfect combination; the yoga class was an excellent warm-up, the cycling class got my heart pumping and left me dripping in sweat (in just 10 minutes, yes), and the mindful cooldown slowly lowered my heart rate. I especially like that the mindful cooldown featured a short guided meditation at the end.
The next day, I did four workouts, each 10 minutes long: core, HIIT, strength, and a treadmill session (using an Echelon Stride machine, which I’m also testing for a future review). The core class featured several floor-based moves that got my blood flowing, like tabletop pose performed with your knees hovering off the floor. The HIIT class featured 30- to 45-second intervals of high-impact jumping moves, which left me just as sweaty as the cycling class. The strength class incorporated moves such as weighted side lunges, bicep curls, and deadlifts.
The treadmill workout was my favorite of the day; it alternated speed and recovery intervals, and the instructor offered options for runners and walkers. During speed intervals, for instance, he instructed walkers to increase their incline to make it harder. One interesting observation I noted is that during treadmill workouts, Fitness+ shows your distance on the screen, and in your workout summary it shows your average pace. The Apple Watch derives these metrics from accelerometer data, but be sure to calibrate your device for the most accurate indoor running stats.
HIIT is highly effective at burning calories quickly, but I’m personally not a huge fan of it, as the frequent jumping movements sometimes feel unsafe. Indeed, research indicates that HIIT puts you at an increased risk of injury, so be careful when you do these workouts. Be sure to adequately warm up beforehand, don’t be too proud to use the modifications, and strive for proper form over speed. I’ll offer the same caution for the strength classes, and any of the workouts, really. Remember that you’re working out alone, without the supervision of a trainer, so listen to your body and if something feels wrong, back off.
All of the Fitness+ classes I’ve taken have been well planned and produced, and the instructors are knowledgeable and engaging. One minor irk is that the classes can sometimes feel a bit scripted, and I’d like to see some of the instructors loosen up a bit. During fitness classes on other platforms, especially live sessions, instructors sometimes fumble over their words or mess up, and these bloopers are humanizing. Peloton instructors like Robin Arzon and Cody Rigsby have reached celebrity status not because they’re perfect, but because they’re real.
In terms of quantity, there’s already a good amount of content in each section, and Apple plans to add more every week. The yoga section, for instance, currently offers seven 10-minute classes, nine 20-minute classes, seven 30-minute classes, and six 45-minute classes.
If I was using Fitness+ for myself and not testing it for work, I’d gravitate toward longer yoga sessions, since yoga is my preferred and primary form of exercise. I usually like to practice for about an hour, so I would probably combine a 45-minute class with a short core and/or mindful cooldown session. Considering that most studio yoga classes cost around $15 apiece, Fitness+ is a good value at just $10 a month (again, as long as you already own the necessary Apple gadgets required to use it).
Can It Catch Peloton?
Many Fitness+ classes require little to no equipment, but you’ll probably want to at least invest in an exercise mat and a couple of sets of dumbbells. You’ll need the dumbbells for most of the strength classes, and some of the core and HIIT workouts. The mat will come in handy during yoga, core, strength, HIIT, and mindful cooldown sessions.
Your ability to participate in the cycling, treadmill, and rowing workouts will depend on whether you have access to one of these machines. You can use Fitness+ with any brand of fitness equipment, as long as there’s a spot on the machine to place your phone or tablet for easy viewing. Most basic stationary bikes and treadmills have a built-in phone or tablet holder, but rowing machines usually don’t. If necessary, you can try purchasing a portable device mount to use on your home machine or bring with you when you hit the gym.
I test smart home gym equipment for a living, and currently have three (yes, three) connected stationary bikes at home—the NordicTrack Commercial S22i Studio Cycle, the Peloton Bike+, and the SoulCycle Variis—so I figured it would be easy for me to try out the Fitness+ cycling classes with one of them. Not so. The Bike+ and Variis don’t have a spot to rest your phone where it would be viewable for Fitness+ classes. The Commercial S22i has a handlebar tray, but it’s designed to hold your phone laying flat, in portrait orientation, and Fitness+ classes are in landscape, so my phone wasn’t the most secure and I didn’t have the best viewing angle.
If you have a smart indoor cycle with a screen, you won’t need a Fitness+ anyway, since these machines offer classes of their own. A Peloton All-Access membership offers Bike and Tread owners a plethora of cycling workouts, plus barre, bootcamp, cardio, outdoor, running, strength, stretching, walking, and yoga workouts, as well as meditation classes (albeit for $39 per month, on top of the price of the machine). The Commercial S22i offers access to iFit, which also features a wide variety of classes, including scenic outdoor rides (for $39 a month after a one-year free trial).
That said, Fitness+ is a nice option if you have a non-connected stationary bike, treadmill, or rowing machine, especially if you can mount a TV on the wall in front of your equipment to stream classes on.
Fitness+ undercuts Peloton’s $12.99 monthly digital-only membership, which you can use without buying one of the company’s machines. Lots of people already use Peloton’s digital membership in combination with non-connected machines as a more affordable alternative to buying a Peloton Bike or Tread. If you fall into that camp, I wouldn’t necessarily ditch your Peloton digital membership for Fitness+.
While it’s poised to grow rapidly with new releases every week, Apple’s workout library currently pales in comparison with Peloton’s, and Fitness+ doesn’t offer any live classes or competitive leaderboards. Fitness+ does, however, offer a few perks over Peloton Digital aside from a lower price, including rowing workouts and tighter integration with the Apple Watch. Ultimately, both are solid options if you want a Peloton-like experience without the high price.
I can certainly see Fitness+ breathing new life into an old piece of fitness equipment that has morphed into a costly clothing rack. Working out alone can feel aimless and boring; Fitness+ gives you direction and helps pass the time. Going this route will definitely save you money compared with buying a Peloton Bike or another smart stationary cycle, though it doesn’t offer quite as immersive an experience.
During smart stationary bike classes, like the ones on Peloton, the instructors often tell you to dial your resistance to a specific range while maintaining a certain cadence (revolutions per minute, or how fast your legs are spinning). The Bike+ and S22i go a step further, automatically adjusting your resistance to match the trainer’s suggestions, so you don’t have to fiddle with buttons or knobs.
Fitness+ cycling instructors don’t tell you what resistance range to stay within, since the resistance systems vary from one bike to the next. They do tell you to hit a certain cadence, when to add or take off resistance, and what the resistance should generally feel like, but they can’t get as specific with their instructions.
Moreover, connected fitness machines show device-specific stats on the display, like your resistance and cadence on a stationary bike, stroke rate on a rowing machine, and speed and incline on a treadmill. You don’t see those stats on Fitness+, but your machine’s display will show them, which means you’ll be looking from one screen to another during the workout.
An Excellent Exercise Companion for Apple Watch Owners
Fitness+ is an excellent and affordable home workout option if you’re already invested in Apple’s ecosystem. For $10 per month (or less if you sign up for a year), it gives you access to a regularly updated library of workout classes, with options for all fitness levels. It lives on your iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV, so you can watch on a big screen, or take it with you wherever you go. A plethora of floor-based workouts require little to no equipment, and cycling, rowing, strength, and treadmill workouts can help guide you at the gym. In addition, excellent music and instructors will keep you motivated to tune in and sweat it out day after day. It’s not a replacement for your Peloton Bike class membership, but it’s worth checking out if you’re Apple Watch owner even remotely interested in fitness.