Living with Apple Fitness+: we get sweaty with the new fitness service

We test the service that puts the Apple Watch front-and-center
Living with Apple Fitness+
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In a world where many of us are now forced to work out at home, Apple Fitness+ couldn’t have landed at a better time.

However, this move from Apple has been long in the making. Just like its Apple Music efforts, the company has collated some of the best trainers and coaches from across the world, and placed them into gym studios in the US.

It costs $9.99 per month or $79.99 a year – which is undercuts most subscriptions. But this is more than just another workout app for Apple users. The Apple Watch is at its heart, with a focus on tracked exertion, heart rate and ring closing that brings Fitness+ to the heart of the iOS and watchOS 7 experience.

We’ve been living and sweating with it. Here’s what you need to know:

Fitness+ is beginner friendly

Apple Fitness+ on Apple TV

We’ve used a host of workout apps, and Fitness+ is certainly the most beginner focussed.

We’re used to hard workouts and Fitness+ certainly keeps things accessible – and could be a little too easy for serious HIITers looking for the next endorphin rush.

We’d actually say this is a benefit for most people. Some rival apps have been so tough to start with, they’ve become demotivating. Freeletics hit us with around 80 crunches in our first session, for example.

That said, with so many filters and choices, we’d like to see graded workouts land in the future, or a way of helping users find a level just outside of the comfort zone.

It’s more than just HIIT

In terms of the fitness disciplines, Apple Fitness+ impressed us with the choice on offer. You get:

  • Strength
  • HIIT
  • Yoga
  • Core
  • Treadmill
  • Cycling
  • Rowing
  • Dance
  • Mindful cooldown

The app is geared to those who hit the gym (or have extensive home equipment), as well as those looking to get fit in the living room.

However, there’s not much there for people that run or cycle outdoors. We would have liked to see outdoor running make up part of the Fitness+ experience, and it’s certainly something that could be added in the future.

Apple TV offers the best experience

Apple Fitness+ mid workout

You can find the Fitness+ app on iPhone, iPad and Apple TV – but it’s the latter that offers the best experience.

To say the workouts are professionally shot is an understatement, but they can be a little hard to follow on the small screen (this goes for any app-based workout).

There are three trainers on screen, and if you’re doing one of the variations (for a harder or easier workout) the technique you’re copying can be one of the coaches at the back.

Apple TV just offers the perfect experience, while iPad and iPhone is there when you’re on the move.

We love the Burn Bar

The Burn Bar is one of our favourite parts of the Apple Fitness+ experience, as it brings the biometrics of the Apple Watch and applies them to your workout.

During elements of the workout, Fitness+ will show you how hard you’re working compared to the rest of the community that completed the same session. This is designed to be a boost if you find yourself lagging – and because it’s based on relative effort, it shouldn’t push you beyond your capabilities.

If you don’t like the Burn Bar it can be turned off, and Apple will regularly prompt you if you still want it on.

The Apple Watch acts as a controller

Apple Fitness+ on iPad and apple watch

You need an Apple Watch to use Apple Fitness+ (you can opt bypass on iPad and iPhone – not Apple TV) – and that means it’s core to the entire experience.

Heart rate is shown on screen at all times, as are those all-familiar activity rings. You can watch them filling up as you work out. When the trainers want you to work harder, the heart rate metric will be displayed more prominently, as will the Burn Bar.

You can also pause and resume from the Apple Watch as well.

As Apple Watch users, it’s great that the whole service is built around the device. Closing the rings gives purpose to workouts, and helps Fitness+ become a habit.

The only downside is that there’s a cost to entry for getting on board with Fitness+. You need an Apple Watch Series 3 or later, iPhone or iPad, and we’d advise an Apple TV.

Chaining together workouts

We’ve lived with plenty of fitness apps, but we’ve never felt the desire to chain workouts together like we have with Fitness+.

Thanks to the filters, we’d often do a quick 10 minute core workout, followed by a 20 minute HIIT and finish with a 5 minute mindfulness cooldown. In fact, doubling up on sessions became a habit – and this is a favourite part of the experience.

There are a couple of factors at play here. First is that Fitness+ is accessible and slightly easier than other services, so you feel you can go and do something else after.

But this is down to the brilliant filters and the breadth of workouts on offer. There are more shorter HIIT workouts on Fitness+ than we’ve seen on rival platforms. Not all the sessions are 45 mins or an hour – there are loads of 15, 20 and 30 minute workouts to try. Again, this is aimed at more casual users.

Big focus on Music

Music is a core part of the Fitness+ experience – but we can see this being a little divisive.

Hands-down this is the best music experience on any workout app. Some of the stock music from apps like Fiit and Zova are pretty poor, and this just makes Fitness+ feel like such a premium experience.

The playlists are from big name artists and chosen by the trainers to really match the workout. The tempo is matched to effort, and despite it not always being music we’d listen to in our own time, we enjoyed it during the workouts.

What’s more, you can filter workouts by the music, if you really like specific vibes.

However, it might surprise some users you can’t just select your own music.

Strength workouts need dumbbells

Apple Fitness+ equipment

Most of the strength workouts need a set of dumbbells, which does feel a little restrictive. Sure, it’s not the most expensive purchase, but most rival apps have body weight strength sections with no equipment required.

Some rivals also have settings for workouts in restricted space, or when you can’t jump around or make too much noise. We feel many would welcome these in the future.

Cut to the chase: is Fitness+ any good?

Fitness+ is a brilliant workout app for Apple Watch users – although it’s 100% more focussed on accessibility and inclusivity than rivals. And the price looks great against rival apps like Peloton and Fiit as well.

More advanced HIIT and fitness fans might find the more rivals like Fiit and Freeletics more up their street. Others might find the saccharine sweet schtick of the Apple trainers a little too much.

But if you’re looking to workout at home and not into beasting yourself so hard you won’t/can’t go again – Apple Fitness+ could be your fitness home.