Powered by the Apple Watch, Apple Fitness+ is a new digital fitness service that offers pre-recorded workout videos from prominent trainers. With new routines added each week, and a free three-month trial available with an Apple Watch purchase, Apple seems to be making a move to become the next fitness powerhouse, taking on industry giants like Fitbit and Peloton.
Integration with the Apple Watch
Even from its early days, health and fitness tools were part of the Apple Watch. A sleep detector, movement and step trackers, and hearing health monitors were just the start. Later models have featured sensors to monitor blood oxygen levels, as well as an ECG app to monitor the wearer’s heartbeat. Now, Apple is unveiling Apple Fitness+ as a subscription-based service that integrates with many of the Apple Watch’s existing fitness features.
Apple Fitness+ fuses the personalized, interactive features of the Apple Watch with studio-based, guided fitness workouts. Users can view the pre-recorded workout videos on their Apple TV, iPad, or iPhone. While they work out, the Apple Watch monitors a variety of different metrics, including calories burned, heart rate, and pace. The readings are displayed in real time on whatever screen the user watches the workout.
To subscribe to Fitness+, Apple Watch owners must have a Series 3 or newer model. In addition, they will need an Apple device on which to view the videos, be it an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV.
A number of different types of workouts are offered, including high-intensity interval training (HIIT), yoga, strength training, rowing, cycling, treadmill, stretching, and more. Currently, upwards of 200 workouts are available; new routines are uploaded on Mondays. Many do not require fitness equipment, and there are routines for a variety of skill levels, from absolute beginner to advanced. In addition, each class offers modifications for the different exercises, so the user can make adjustments based on their comfort and fitness level. Apple seems to have made an effort at inclusivity as well: the instructors range in age from 20 to 60. All use sign language when possible to help people with hearing impairments.
Besides searching for classes based on category, trainer, and workout duration, users can also filter classes by music genre. Users can view a text description of the class, a list of necessary equipment, the music playlist, and a “trailer” video to get a feel for the class before selecting it.
Coronavirus and the Fitness Industry
With people around the world forced to stay home and businesses closed due to covid-19, the fitness industry is experiencing major disruptions. By May, two months into the pandemic in the US, more than 38,000 gyms and health clubs had closed. Major companies like Gold’s Gym and 24-Hour Fitness filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this year. In addition, some 500,000 fitness industry workers were laid off, as of May. Gyms have reopened in many areas, but many still face reduced capacity limits and physical distancing requirements. Earlier in the year, it was estimated that one-fourth of all US gyms and health clubs could permanently go out of business by the end of 2020.
The digital fitness industry, however, is booming. For example, the digital exercise tracking app Strava has recorded an average of 2 million new subscribers per month since the start of the pandemic. The UK fitness app Freeletics saw a 50% increase in use during the first UK lockdown between March and June. Peloton, the at-home fitness equipment and streaming media company, reported that its Q1 2020 sales more than tripled; in November, the company said that sales were spiking again.
In a Fast Company interview, Peloton president William Lynch said that the pandemic has “proved” the mass movement toward at-home fitness that his company has been betting on. He noted that their research suggests that, even after covid-19, at least 60 percent of Americans do not intend to renew their gym memberships. In other words, the shift to digital fitness is not merely due to the pandemic — it’s permanent, in Peloton’s view.
Apple Fitness+ vs. Other Options
One of the major benefits of Fitness+ is that people who already own an Apple Watch and Apple device can use the platform without having to invest in fitness equipment. At $80 per year, or $9.99 per month, Apple Fitness+ supports multiple users, enabling up to six people to use a single subscription. Gizmodo and CNET both reviewed the platform positively.
For workout enthusiasts with a well-stocked home gym, Peloton remains competitive. Though it’s best known for cycling classes, the company now offers other types of workouts as well. With an emphasis on live streaming, Peloton users can work out with other members in real time — and this can provide a unique sense of camaraderie and motivation, a major benefit for people who still must practice social distancing.
However, these two services are by no means the only ones available. Other notable digital fitness platforms offering live, pre-recorded, and/or interactive workouts include Daily Burn, Obé, Crunch Fitness Live, Tracy Anderson, and The Class by Taryn Toomey.