Excellent audio narration
Demonstration doesn’t follow audio
Not good for beginners
I've tested a lot of workout apps, including Peloton, Daily Burn, and Obé, and Aaptiv bested most of them. It wasn’t our overall winner—that honor goes to Nike Training Club—but it’s still a great way to get (or stay) in shape, whether you’re working out outside, at home, or venturing back to the gym. If you’re thinking of trying Aaptiv, here’s what you need to know.
What is Aaptiv?
Aaptiv is one of many workout apps that you’ve probably seen in ads on Instagram or Facebook. It costs $14.99 a month or $99 a year to get access to strength training, yoga, Pilates, TRX, meditation, treadmill, indoor cycling, elliptical, and outdoor running classes. Aaptiv also offers a one-week free trial, so it’s possible to test it out beforehand if you’re not sure you want to commit to it. (Though, in my experience, one week always goes by faster than you think it will when you’re trying something new—make sure to set some kind of alarm to remind you to cancel if you don’t want to pay for it.)
After downloading, Aaptiv gives you a quiz that is used to gauge the best way for you to use the app. This quiz was one of the most detailed I took of all the apps I tried. It asked standard things like my weight, height, age, gender, and fitness level, plus more in-depth questions like how often I exercise, what kind of exercise I like, what days I like to exercise, the workout equipment I have access to, and whether or not I wanted notifications. It also asked if there were any specific goals I wanted to pursue even beyond my fitness aspirations, such as drinking more water, meditating before going to bed, and taking an extra core exercise challenge. Based on these responses, it gave me a workout plan.
How does Aaptiv work?
When it comes to using the app, there is one main thing to know about it: Aaptiv is almost entirely an audio-only service. This means you hear an instructor telling you what to do for the workout, but there is no accompanying video showing you how to do it. In some of the workouts, you can scroll through title cards that show demos of the exercises, but it’s not guaranteed in every workout.
How you feel about this depends on your own preferences but, for the most part, I liked this format. In all the workouts I tried, the instructors did a great job of describing each exercise in detail and in a way that felt engaging enough to stay alert and motivated throughout the workout. The lack of video also helped preserve my phone battery, which can get zapped pretty quickly with apps that stream instructional videos.
On the other hand, zoning out will cost you during an Aaptiv workout. With workout videos, all you need to do to remedy a moment of distraction is glance at it for a few seconds to catch up. On the few occasions I lost my place in an Aaptiv session, it was a lot harder for me to get my bearings, and I ended up having to rewind until I got to the last spot I remembered. This may help some people be more intentional about their workouts—if you know you really have to pay attention to something, you will—but others (particularly visual learners) may find it annoying.
What’s good about Aaptiv?
Because it’s primarily audio-only, Aaptiv is one of the more discreet fitness apps—all you have to do to use it is plug in your headphones, rather than look at a screen the whole time. This makes it a great option if you’re working out in a setting where you don’t want to have your phone in front of you the whole time, or may not want to cop to using an app, like in a gym or a household with nosy roommates or family members.
I also found the interface intuitive, flexible, and just customized enough. By this, I mean that it set a personalized plan for me based on my answers to the quiz, but it didn’t constrain me to one workout each day. Instead, it suggested a certain type of workout to do each day, and gave me about five different options to choose from (which usually ranged between 20 and 40 minutes in length) so I could choose the one that seemed best suited for me based on my mood or time constraints. It was also easy to diverge from the plan altogether and search for a workout on my own if I was supposed to do strength training one day and wanted to do, say, Pilates instead.
Like many workout apps, Aaptiv kept track of my progress and rewarded me for “streaks” and doing a certain number of a particular kind of workout. But unlike other apps, if I happened to do a workout from another app, and that app was linked to my health settings on my iPhone, it counted it toward my overall progress, which I thought was cool.
The workouts themselves were fun and challenging. I preferred the ones that had title cards, so I could see a demo of the move I was supposed to do, but the instructors were clear-spoken enough that it was easy to follow along either way.
What’s not so good about Aaptiv?
If you know you prefer visual to audio learning, you may be better-suited with another app that offers video instruction. And even if you do like audio learning, if you are totally brand-new to fitness, I don’t think I would recommend Aaptiv. You could use it as a first-timer, but no matter how great an audio explanation of an exercise is, it’s not going to help much if you’ve never actually seen the exercise performed before.
I also didn’t always love the music that played during the workouts. Aaptiv tells you the genre of music that plays during the workout, but you don’t get to preview the playlist (which you can do with Peloton) or play your own music (which you can do with Nike Training Club), so it’s always a little bit of a surprise when it starts. Some workouts had great tunes—there was one Dua Lipa-themed Pilates class that I really enjoyed—but others featured Muzak-y, elevator-style music that was far from inspiring. That said, Aaptiv seems to be moving away from generic music in favor of collaborations with artists, so this may only be a problem with its older workouts.
Should you get Aaptiv?
If you are a visual learner, or have never really worked out before, a different app—something like Nike Training Club or Peloton—may be a better option for you. But if you have a little bit of fitness experience, and like the idea of being able to plug into a workout without having to stare at the screen the whole time, Aaptiv is a great exercise resource. It helps you set goals that are achievable and tailored to your needs, whether those involve losing weight, gaining muscle, or simply moving around more. If you’re thinking of trying it, start with the week-long free trial, and see where you want to take it from there.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Sara Hendricks is an editor with Reviewed covering health and fitness.
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