Along with its latest breed of Apple Watches, Apple announced Apple Fitness+ earlier this year, a subscription service featuring workout videos — in a variety of lengths, difficulties and types of exercises — led by world-class instructors and which use your Apple Watch to monitor your workout. Now, it's finally available, and after a few days with it and can say that it really kicked my ass. (At least some of the workouts, anyway).
Before the pandemic, I was never one to go to the gym or take workout classes. But I'm not inactive! I go for outdoor runs several times a week and occasionally do a stint on a decade-old exercise bike. And the Apple Watch has always been a companion for those workouts.
Fitness+ gave me the opportunity to broaden my horizons a bit. Knowing too well that whichever workout videos I started were bound to leave me sore from exercising underused muscle groups, I dove in with beginner-level classes. These short workout classes which ranged between 10 and 20 minutes helped me "graduate" to moderate classes. It culminated in a 30-minute cycling workout that I did with Tyrell Desean, which left me drenched with sweat and pretty exhausted.
The experience goes like this: choose your workout within the Fitness app on your iPhone, iPad or Apple TV, and you then feel a haptic buzz on your Apple Watch and can start the workout class. During the workout, your Apple Watch acts as your remote; you can quickly pause and play your workout with a single touch. Also, because it's designed for the Apple Watch, all the workouts can be tracked and are designed to help you close your Activity rings.
And that's the thing with Fitness+: You need to have an Apple Watch (Series 3 or newer). If you don't have an Apple Watch, you can't even sign up for a subscription. You also need an iPhone, iPad or Apple TV, so you can actually watch the workout videos. The Apple Watch shows your heart rate and calories burned on the screen while you're working out so you can see how you're doing. (Although Fitness+ doesn't really give you much context in terms of what your heart rate data actually means during the workout. )
Fitness+ gives you the option to select a number of different types of workouts. There are HIIT, core, strength, dance and yoga workouts, most of which don't require any extra equipment (although the more advanced strength and core workouts use some free weights). There are also treadmill, cycling and rowing workouts for people who have those larger pieces of equipment on hand. Once you select the type of workout you want to do, you then choose the exact workout based on difficulty or length. You can filter the workouts by instructors and/or the type of music you want to listen to, too.
Ultimately, the Fitness+ experience is pretty intuitive and straightforward. That's because online workout classes have been popular for years, be it cycling with Peloton or yoga with Glo, and Apple hasn't exactly reinvented the wheel with Fitness+. The only real difference is that Fitness+ was designed to work extremely well with Apple devices, the ones you presumably already have.
Apple integrated a few other things into Fitness+ that are pretty convenient. For example, you can download workouts to your iPhone or iPad so that, if you're traveling, you don't need a steady Wi-Fi connection to get your workout fix. If you're visiting a friend and they have an Apple TV, you actually do a workout on their TV even if they don't subscribe to Fitness+, which is pretty neat. Also, if you like the music playlist — there's a different one for each workout — you can save it (or just a song) and open it in Apple Music later.
You can also share your Fitness+ subscription with up to five other family members (for a total of six total people including yourself). This, of course, requires that everybody in your family has their own Apple Watch. It also more or less requires that you likely have an Apple TV, unless your family is really into doing workouts on iPhones and iPads. I haven't been able to test this yet, but Apple claims that your Apple TV will be able to detect which Apple Watch is close by and then let you select your individual profile.
Of course, I'm not somebody who aggressively works out and I haven't taken the more advanced classes that Fitness+ has to offer — I've only been testing the service for less than a week. What I can say is that it's been fun and, at times, very challenging. And despite the incredible enthusiasm and yoga instructions of Dustin Brown and Molly Fox, my body just can't bend in those ways. At least not yet.
Apple Fitness+ costs $9.99/month or $79.99/year, and the first month is free. Also, if you've bought a new Apple Watch this fall (September 15 or later) or are planning to buy one, the first three months of the subscription are free.
Price: $9.99/month or $79.99/year