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Here's everything you need to know about Apple's new workout streaming platform.

By Kylie Gilbert
Jan 08, 2021 @ 9:50 am
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Apple Fitness+ Review
Credit: Courtesy Apple, Getty Images

Like many, when I think back on my life pre-COVID, it's hard to believe that I got dressed in real clothes and shoes and commuted on the subway every morning (with thousands of maskless people!). But what seems truly far-fetched to me now is that several days a week, I packed a gym bag and made it to 7 pm workout classes afterward.

As someone who relied on the variety of ClassPass (and their $20 fee for a missed class) to keep me accountable and motivated, I struggled to commit to anything resembling a regular at-home workout routine once the pandemic hit. Despite the fact that there were so many fitness apps and streaming options available at my fingertips (especially as the wellness editor of this website!), my only exercise for most of last year consisted of walks and bike rides in the Jersey suburbs. Rather than schlepping to a workout in the evening, my new activity was walking to the couch, pouring a glass of wine, and indulging in whatever Netflix hit my coworkers were raving about. I was more concerned about taking care of my mental wellbeing than a number on the scale and figured I'd get back to regular workouts... eventually?

Then December hit and outdoor activity went out the window. With the sun setting earlier and earlier, my mood took a dive; I started to feel achy when I awoke in the morning, and I realized it was time to get into the practice of regularly moving my body again. Luckily, this aha moment coincided with Apple reaching out to test Fitness+, their new workout service that supposedly caused Peloton stock to fall when it was announced last year along with the Series 6 Apple Watch.

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Credit: Courtesy

What makes Apple Fitness+ so special?

Powered by the Apple Watch, Fitness+ is billed as a "first-of-its-kind personalized and immersive workout experience." Through the Fitness app, you can take part in hundreds of studio-style workouts on your Apple device (iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV) while receiving real-time metrics about your workout (like heart rate and calories burned).

So, in the name of journalism, I tried a new workout every day, working my way through almost all of the 10 options available: HIIT, Strength, Yoga, Dance, Core, Cycling, Treadmill, Rowing, and Mindful Cooldown. Considering my attention span for long workouts had taken a major hit in 2020, my favorite thing became stringing together a few different 10-minute workouts — say, HIIT, then core, then a yoga flow — which made it fairly painless to ease back into regularly working out again.

I streamed dance workouts in front of my TV (the AppleTV really takes Fitness+ to the next level), yoga on my iPad before bed, and cued up a running workout on my iPhone to use on the dusty treadmill in my parents' basement. (You can also download workouts to try later when Wifi isn't available, for instance when you're traveling or if you want to do yoga outside in the park.) After the month was up, I didn't have a shocking before-and-after transformation, but I definitely felt stronger, more flexible, and less achy in general — and actually felt excited about working out again.

While most of my wellness habits are constantly changing and I'm loyal only to a select few products (I'm always testing a new CBD, protein powder, or water bottle), after a month of using Fitness+, it's safe to say that it'll remain a part of my routine in 2021.

Here, a few of my favorite Apple Fitness + features:

It caters to all workout levels (absolute beginners included).

While I've tried almost every workout out there at this point, I still remember that sinking feeling of taking a hot yoga or bootcamp class for the first time and feeling completely in over my head and embarrassed because I couldn't keep up. (I still shudder to think about my first Tracy Anderson class.) This is why I loved the 'Absolute Beginner' program, where the Fitness+ trainers walk you through the basics of HIIT, strength, or yoga to help you ease into the studio workouts. Not only is it great for someone brand new to a type of exercise or working out in general, but it's also a great way for someone like me to ease back in. The studio workouts also cater to all levels: If you're working on perfecting your planks or squat jumps, there's always a trainer showing you a modification so you don't hurt yourself or get discouraged if you can't do the 'full version' of a move. 

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Credit: Courtesy

The trainers are diverse and inclusive. 

I follow plenty of fitness influencers and trainers on Instagram, but many of them tend to fit a similar mold. Which is why I appreciated that Apple took the time to make sure their 21 trainers were representative of many races, ages, abilities, and body types.

Over the past month, I've been introduced to so many new faces, like Molly Fox, a former Jane Fonda instructor in her sixties who's all about 'strength at any age' and Amir Ekbatani, a former college football player who lost his leg below the knee after a car accident and went on to become a trainer. Then there's hip-hop dance choreographer and trainer LaShawn Jones, a former HIV-prevention researcher who taught dance on the side before moving to New York to pursue fitness and dance full-time. Bonus: They all seem like genuinely nice people you'd want to be friends with and are encouraging without being shame-y at all. (This is an important criteria for me: I'm still scarred by one pre-pandemic workout class where, mid-burpee, the male instructor yelled at the women in the room to work harder if we wanted a 'bikini body'.)

You can choose workouts based on your mood.

There are more than 200 workouts on Fitness+ with new classes added weekly across workout types and duration (options range from quick 5-minute sessions to 45-minute classes), but you can also filter by nine different musical genres, from country to pop. You can see the full workout playlist before you start so you can choose exactly what you're in the mood to listen to in that moment. Think: A mellow Chill Vibes playlist after a stressful day of work, or an '80s-inspired Throwback Hits workout if you need a boost of energy in the morning.

It keeps you immersed and motivated. 

One of my favorite features of Fitness+ was that it integrates workout metrics from the Apple Watch — including your heart rate, time, calories burned, and activity ring status — directly on the screen of whatever device you're streaming on so you don't even have to look down. There's also a Burn Bar for certain cardio workouts so you can compare how you stack up to other users around the world who have done the same workout and Activity Sharing to let your friends keep you on track towards your fitness goals, and challenge them with activity competitions. If you aren't the type of person who's motivated by a ton of external pressure or competition, you can also just set weekly or monthly workout goals that feel realistic for you.

It's (relatively) affordable. 

While you do need an Apple Watch (Series 3 or later) and at least an iPhone (6s or later) to use Fitness+, once you've made that initial investment, the monthly cost of Fitness+ is less than a standard Netflix subscription. Pre-Covid, I was spending more than I'd like to admit on Classpass and one-off classes at my favorite New York City fitness studios, which often ring in at $30+ a pop, so for $10 per month, or $80 a year, Fitness+ feels like a steal, especially compared to other similar workout streaming apps. (You also get three months free when you buy an Apple Watch.)

If you've felt left out of the Peloton craze because you don't have thousands to shell out for a bike, Fitness + might just be the move for you. While there are cycling, treadmill, and rowing workouts available (Apple started designing Fitness+ way before the pandemic, imagining many people would use the service on their phone in the gym), you don't need to invest in any fancy equipment to get the most of the experience. Many of the workouts require just a mat a set of dumbbells or your own bodyweight. So if you're looking for a routine you can start without too many barriers to entry, this just might be it.