A focus on the expansion of Apple Fitness+ is at: https://www.macstories.net/news/apple-expands-fitness-offerings-with-new-classes-designed-for-pregnancy-and-older-adults-new-trainers-and-time-to-walk-with-jane-fonda/
But here’s the review: https://mashable.com/review/apple-fitness-plus-review/?
Apple Fitness+ review: A workout app for everyone but the fitness fanatic
BY BRENDA STOLYARFEB 23, 2021
Is Apple’s new exercise app enough to fend off the quarantine-induced fitness slump?
With the pandemic raging on for almost a year now, the excitement of working out from home has likely worn off for a lot of people. But gyms are still unsafe, leaving most people no choice but to continue exercising under their own roofs.
So in comes Fitness+, Apple’s $9.99 per month (or $79.99 per year) subscription service that offers a variety of different workouts (including Dance, Cycling, Core, Strength, HIIT, and more) that can be taken right from your living room. Each class, led by Apple’s curated team of instructors, ranges anywhere from five to 45 minutes, and offers the ability to track your metrics in real time.
But here’s the catch: It’s not as easy as downloading the app to your iPhone and rolling out your exercise mat. In order to use Fitness+ to its fullest, you’ll also need an iPhone and an Apple Watch (Series 3 or newer) to track your metrics and maybe a few other Apple accessories like Apple TV or iPad.Apple Fitness+$9.99 (per month) / $79.99 (per year)VIEW PRODUCTThe GoodA wide variety of classes • New workouts added on a weekly basis • Seamless connectivity between Apple products • Motivational instructors • Classes don’t require a lot of equipment (if any at all)The BadRequires Apple Watch (Series 3 or later) for best experience • App interface could be more intuitive • Doesn’t offer live workoutsThe Bottom LineApple’s Fitness+ offers a wide range of workouts that can easily be incorporated into your everyday routine. But with mainly beginner to mid-level workouts, fitness buffs will want to look elsewhere.⚡ Mashable Score4.5😎 Cool Factor5.0📘Learning Curve3.5💪Performance5.0💵Bang for the Buck4.5
That might sound like quite the investment for Apple loyalists who don’t already own both those devices. But considering smart fitness machines from the likes of Peloton and NordicTrack can cost thousands of dollars, buying a $300 smartwatch may not seem as daunting in comparison. Plus, it also takes up zero real estate at home.
It’s also not as big of a commitment, either. Rather than having to stick to one machine, Apple’s fitness service gives you the freedom to switch up your workouts on a daily basis, without locking you out of the option to use it with a treadmill, stationary bike, or rower.
That flexibility also makes the entire experience a lot less intimidating, especially for those who are only starting out on their fitness journeys or may want a simple solution to an at-home gym. Apple isn’t targeting fitness buffs with this one; it’s purely catering to those who want to cross off “working out” from their to-do lists each day.
The ideal Fitness+ setup depends on the person
When Fitness+ first dropped, I wrote a guide listing all the accessories you’d need for the ideal setup — an Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, and an Apple TV — and how that would total about $1,970. But to be clear, you can still use it with just an iPhone and an Apple Watch.
Before you start adding expensive Apple products to your cart though, it’s probably best to figure out where and when you’ll be using Fitness+. After switching between the iPhone 12 mini, Apple TV, and iPad Air to stream workouts, I realized the right setup all depends on where you’re exercising.
Let me break it down for you:
- If you’re the type to work out strictly from home, you’ll want to invest in an Apple TV: While a lot of the Core workouts on Fitness+ are mainly floor-based, some of the Strength classes require switching between laying down and standing up. So unless you’ve placed your iPhone where you can see it from all heights, you’ll find yourself constantly repositioning it. Casting those exercises via Apple TV is far more comfortable because it gives you a much larger display to follow without having to worry about falling behind during a workout.
- If you’re the type to travel and never skip a workout, you’ll want to buy an iPad: Again, an iPhone works fine. But for someone like me, who often travels between her apartment in New York and her parents’ house in New Jersey, it’s a lot more convenient to pull out the iPad Air and start my workout than to go through setting up an Apple TV device in a different setting.
- If you’re the type who lives with roommates and doesn’t have a TV in your bedroom, you’ll be fine with an iPhone: I get it. Not everyone has a comfy living room to workout in where the TV is always free to use. If you typically work out in your room and don’t have a TV in there, your iPhone will suffice. I’ve completed plenty of workouts from the tiny 5.4-inch display on the iPhone 12 mini. But I’d recommend purchasing some type of phone stand, like a PopSocket, to make it easier to prop up.
It’s also worth mentioning that if you’re eyeing the Apple TV, it’s not the only way Fitness+ can play on your TV. Once Apple releases the final versions of iOS 14.5 and watchOS 7.4 (as of now, it’s only available on the developer and public betas), you’ll be able to cast it to your TV using your iPhone and AirPlay 2. But you’ll have to look down at the Apple Watch on your wrist to see your metrics.
Even though there are a variety of ways to access Fitness+, it irks me that you can’t access it on a MacBook or iMac. Seeing as how the 13-inch MacBook Pro is my daily driver, I would’ve been more than content using it to follow along to workouts. Hopefully, that option will be available in the future.
Beware of the very overwhelming app interface
Rather than force you to download another app, Apple bundled Fitness+ into the main Fitness app on the iPhone. To access it, simply open the app and tap on the Fitness+ icon at the bottom.
On top is where you can scroll through all the different workout categories: High-intensity interval training (HIIT), Yoga, Core, Strength, Treadmill, Rowing, Cycling, Dance, and Mindful Cooldown. When you choose a specific type of workout, you’ll see all the different classes available for it. From there, you can either filter the classes by trainer, duration, and music, or group the classes based on those same categories.
When you tap on a specific class, you can watch a short preview of what to expect along with a playlist of all the songs that will play. While the previews are enough for me to understand what it is I’m in for, I’d rather have a list of all the different movements included throughout the class. That way, I could simply scan it beforehand without having to watch a video each time.
Finding a class is simple once you choose the type you want, but the rest of the app is super congested. It feels like Apple tried to pack in as much as it could onto the homepage to make sure you’re heavily aware of what Fitness+ has to offer.
Fitness+ is divided into the following sections:
- This Week — which features one new workout that’s been added to the app
- Time to Walk — which features Apple’s audio workouts for daily walks
- More of What You Do — which suggests additional workouts based on ones you’ve already taken
- Try Something New — which suggests other trainers or types of music
- New This Week — which shows you all the new classes added that week
- For Beginners — which consists of seven episodes for those who are just starting out
- Popular — which lists popular classes separated by type of workout
And that’s not even all of it.
Towards the bottom, there’s also a list of different trainers and another section for a specific trainer’s “Top Picks.” And just when you thought that was the end of it, there’s also a place where you can find “Simple and Quick” workouts, along with a “My Workouts” section where you can save classes you want to take. If all of that wasn’t overwhelming enough, you can also tap “Show All” on each section to see more workouts.
Here’s an example of what you’ll see scrolling through the app:Volume 0%
While I’m grateful the Fitness+ app isn’t separate from the full Fitness app, it would be a lot more useful if there were some customization options — like the ability to remove specific sections I don’t often use or adding more tabs to the bottom of the app so it feels more organized.
With over 300 classes on Fitness+, I understand that Apple probably wants its users to see everything that’s available to them. But having that many options in front of you feels similar to scrolling through Netflix — rather than picking something to watch, I just waste time scrolling through all the options and watching all the trailers instead.
The stats on the screen are an excellent motivator
In case I haven’t stressed this enough, you can only sign up for Fitness+ if you have an Apple Watch. You can’t even download the Fitness app unless there’s a Watch paired to your iPhone.
If your Apple Watch happens to be dead, you can still take a Fitness+ class without it by using your iPad or iPhone. So if you’re trying to find an excuse to not work out one day, you can’t use that. That is, unless you’re working out via Apple TV, in which case you need the Apple Watch.
Using Fitness+ with the Apple Watch, however, offers a more seamless and motivational experience. Starting a Fitness+ workout is simple with the Watch. The minute you choose your class on your iPhone or iPad, the Apple Watch automatically knows which one to start tracking. On the left-hand corner of the screen, you’ll see the time elapsed, your heart-rate, and active calories burned. On the right-hand corner are your Activity Rings which show you how far away you are from closing them. You do have room for some customization for what you see on the screen. Once you start a workout, you can toggle all of that information off.
If you’re taking any class that requires a machine (i.e., rowing, treadmill, or cycling), then you’ll also see a feature called the Burn Bar which is basically Apple’s version of creating some type of competition. Rather than a leaderboard (as seen on Peloton) which allows you to see how you stack up against others in the class, the bar shows only your progress.
It’s also a lot more convenient to see all your stats up there on the screen. I constantly check my Watch throughout my workouts to see how I’m doing, which can be really distracting. So having it clearly visible is a huge help.
Whenever we’d hit intervals throughout my rowing class, the Burn Bar would say things like, “You’re ahead of the pack!” or “You’re in front of the pack!” As someone who would hide the leaderboard on the Peloton Bike because I didn’t want others to see how I was doing, this is a welcome change. It helped to push me in a way that allowed me to solely focus on myself as opposed to comparing myself to others.
I wish the Burn Bar existed on other fitness machines — it’d be nice to keep my workout metrics private.
Intense workouts with very chill vibes
- An extremely ripped but approachable instructor who is also super motivational? Check.
- An aesthetically pleasing studio to serve as a background? Check.
- The ability to see your metrics on the screen in real time? Check.
- A heavy emphasis on music throughout each class? Check.
But one thing that sets Fitness+ apart is that the atmosphere isn’t as intense. I’m not sure if it’s because these classes are filmed over on the West Coast, but even during the more intense workouts, the instructors manage to maintain some very chill vibes.
Unlike instructors for Peloton and NordicTrack who tend to get so passionate that they end up screaming (nicely) throughout most of the workouts, none of the Fitness+ instructors I’ve taken classes with ever really raised their voices. This relative calm weirdly helped to make me feel less panicky when I wasn’t able to keep up at some points.
None of the classes are separated by skill level (i.e., beginner, intermediate, and advanced) either. That doesn’t mean you won’t feel sore after a workout (you most definitely will), but there’s more room to go at your own pace. Each class also includes an additional trainer that does a modified version of each exercise move, making it easier for beginners to follow along.
As far as accessories go, the most you’ll need are a set of weights and a yoga mat. But the instructors make it clear that these aren’t requirements and you can still take the classes without them.
In addition to offering up motivational quotes and mantras, the instructors also indicate how you might be feeling at any given point during the workout. Halfway through a Strength workout, one instructor pointed out that our legs might be feeling like Jell-O during a lunge (they did). During a Rowing class, another instructor mentioned we’d gotten to the part where we’d be feeling really tired (I was). And during a Core workout, we were reminded to breathe while lifting weights (I wasn’t).
While the floor workouts offer some really detailed guidance, I can’t say the same for workouts that involve machines. Since the classes need to be able to work with all types of stationary bikes, rowing machines, and treadmills, the instructors keep resistance levels and speeds really vague. They use phrases like “a nice and easy intensity” or “medium intensity.” So, basically, you’re choosing your own levels at all times.
That Burn Bar I mentioned earlier certainly helps to push you a little bit harder and to maybe set those numbers at more difficult levels. But it’s not the same as what you’d find on a smart connected machine — with classes that are specifically tailored to adjust levels automatically, depending on the trainer.
If you’re going to opt for Fitness+ and purchase a standard machine, then I strongly suggest you either familiarize yourself with it or check out the associated classes on the Fitness+ app first. I say this because Apple doesn’t offer any beginner classes on how to properly use them. This doesn’t necessarily apply to the treadmill as much as it does the stationary bike and rowing machine, which require proper form for effective and safe workouts. Otherwise, if you already own these machines, then they’ll certainly help to make workouts a lot more fun and interactive.
About that ‘Time to Walk’ feature …
Apple made somewhat of a big deal over Time to Walk, giving the feature its very own announcement a month after launching Fitness+. But unless you’re going to be using it in addition to the workouts, it’s not a reason to subscribe to the fitness service.
The walking audio experience includes storytelling from celebrities like Shawn Mendes, (national treasure) Dolly Parton, Ruby Bridges, Bubba Wallace, and more. In between, images that pertain to the specific stories appear on your Apple Watch every so often, and the end features a playlist of the celeb’s favorite songs.
Not only is it meant to encourage you to go for walks on a daily basis (it triggers the Outdoor Walk exercise mode once you start playing an episode), but the sound effects — like leaves crunching and birds chirping throughout — are meant to make it feel like you’re walking alongside that celebrity.
It took a lot for me to try Time to Walk, particularly because I’m already very loyal to my podcasts when I go for walks. And while some would say this is basically the same thing as a podcast, I actually think it’s worse. Sure, the sound of someone “walking” next to you seems kind of cool in the beginning, but that feeling wears off quickly.
The stories are interesting, but the images that appeared on my Watch are annoying and distracting. Whenever it would buzz my wrist, I’d think I was receiving a notification, which made it tough to disassociate and clear my mind. The experience just wasn’t as enjoyable as some would expect it to be, but it did force me to get out of my apartment and go for a nice stroll.
Regardless, I’m more than content to stick to my podcasts.
The solution to a seamless at-home workout experience
I’ll give it to Apple. Fitness+ is off to a very strong start. But there are still some areas where it can be improved, starting with more categories. Hopefully, Apple can add additional classes for workouts like kickboxing (similar to FightCamp’s classes), weight training, and guided running sessions. And if it wants to attract more users, it would help to include some workouts tailored to the more advanced levels.
If you’re looking for a workout that will physically push you past your limits, you’re better off checking out a smart connected machine like Peloton’s Bike+ or NordicTrack RW900. Not only are the classes specifically built for these machines, but each one has live resistance control that automatically switches throughout the workouts.
If those machines are out of your budget, you can always pair a standard exercise machine with the Peloton Digital app for $12.99 per month. It allows you to take the same classes (live and on-demand) as those with their proprietary bikes or treadmills, so the instructors are a lot more in-depth when it comes to resistance training.
If you decide to stick with Apple, just know that Fitness+ is more about the basics and less about the overall journey. It’s about pushing people to incorporate some type of exercise into their day-to-day lives without the need for a bunch of fitness equipment. With classes that are no shorter than five minutes but no longer than 45 minutes, you’re able to squeeze in one or even multiple workouts each day.
But that doesn’t mean the classes aren’t difficult — they’re just not all that intimidating. It’s really up to you to view those metrics on screen and set your own level of intensity. Trust me, seeing the small amount of calories you’re burning throughout each workout will get you moving quicker regardless of the workout.