Integrates with Apple Watch
Great classes and instructors
Helpful and intuitive metrics
Must have Apple Watch to use
Needs workout equipment
What is Apple Fitness+?
Apple Fitness+ is Apple’s workout app. To use it, you must have an Apple Watch Series 3 or later paired to an iPhone. Once you’re signed up, Fitness+ works on iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs. It costs $9.99 a month or $79.99 a year, and if you use Apple's Family Sharing plan, up to five people can use Fitness+. All of its classes are on-demand, which means there are no live workouts like you’d find on competitors like Peloton.
How does Apple Fitness+ work?
If you have an Apple Watch, you should already be familiar with its concept of its fitness rings, or the way it measures certain wellness goals it wants users to hit each day. The closer you get to achieving a certain number of minutes you work out, hours you stand, and calories you burn, the more complete the three colored rings on the watchface become. The app is built as a sort of extension to the fitness rings, in that it’s clear that your main goal when you use it is to help you close your rings every day.
Unlike most other fitness apps, you don’t take a quiz when you first download it, asking for things like your height, weight, and workout goals, because it already has that information. In fact, you don’t have to download it at all. Fitness+ is accessible through the Watch app that you download when you get an Apple Watch—to get to it, just click on the Fitness+ tab in that app.
When you start a workout on your iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV, that device connects with your watch to record and display your metrics. The left side of the device screen shows the time remaining in the class, your heart rate, and active calories burned, and the right side of the screen shows a visual representation of the rings. If you’re not into seeing the metrics, you can hide each one individually or get rid of all of them at once.
You can also do workouts even if you aren't wearing the watch, but it’s discouraged—if you press “play” without wearing it, Fitness+ sends a pop-up notification that says it can’t detect your watch, and if you’re sure you want to proceed with the workout. If you do proceed, you don’t see any metrics, just the time remaining in the class. When you finish the workout, a summary appears on the screen where you took the class and your watch.
What are Fitness+ workouts like?
Fitness+ offers HIIT (high intensity interval training), yoga, core, strength, treadmill, cycling, rowing, dance, and “mindful cooldown” (stretches paired with a short meditation sequence). The classes play as videos led by trainers, all of which are between five and 45 minutes long and can be accessed on any (Apple) screen of your choosing. The workouts all have Apple Music-sourced playlists divided into genres including “Latest Hits,” “Top Country,” “Hip Hop/R&B,” “Throwback Hits,” “Latin Grooves,” “Everything Rock,” “Chill Vibes,” “Pure Dance,” and “Upbeat Anthems.” When you select a workout, you can check out the full playlist before it starts.
Each class has three people in it—the lead instructor and two other instructors, who show modifications and advancements when necessary. The other instructors aren’t always experts of a particular kind of exercise—a running class may be led by a running instructor flanked by strength and dance instructors, so it’s fun to tune into a class and see who’s going to be there with you.
The treadmill, cycling, rowing, and HIIT classes use something called a “burn bar,” which compares your heart rate, calories burned, and distance (when applicable) to others who have taken the class and shows a visual comparison of where you stack up, using terms like “middle of the pack” or “ahead of the pack.” The other workouts do not have this feature.
At the end of each class, the lead instructor says some variation of “Have a great day, and remember—close your rings.” It’s a little culty! But if you, like me, often develop pathological obsessions with fitness goals that could be described as “arbitrary,” such as the concept of closing out semi-imaginary rings each day, you’ll appreciate the reminder.
The app also has Watch-only outdoor walking sessions, in which Apple enlists celebrities—who range from singers including Dolly Parton and Shawn Mendes to athletes including basketball player Draymond Green—to chat with you and play some of their favorite tunes (sourced from Apple Music, naturally) as you stroll.
What’s good about Apple Fitness+?
Overall, I loved Fitness+. It’s easy to use, the workouts are fun, and it has enough variety to provide a solid exercise foundation for anyone of any fitness level. It seems to be geared more towards beginners than more established athletes—the only multi-workout program it has is called “Workouts To Get Started” and contains seven 10- to 20-minute introductory strength, HIIT, yoga, and core classes—but because there are options to level up (and modify) the workouts, it should work for almost everyone. And I will say that the classes felt easy when I was doing something I have a decent amount of experience with, like HIIT, and not so easy during classes I am not so experienced in, like dance, so I appreciated the baseline approach it took for each class.
The burn bar is also felt effective. In testing Peloton and NordicTrack, I found their leaderboards distracting, because the overwhelming drive to “win” the class can make me hyperfocus on it to the point where I feel compelled to skip important recovery intervals and forget to enjoy it. But the burn bar creates a nice sense of competition that isn’t all-consuming. I knew I wanted to be at the front of the pack, but I didn’t have someone with a username like “SparkleBunny2020” right in front of me giving me tunnel vision to get there. And, if you aren’t feeling it, you can always hide the burn bar (much like the leaderboards of the competitors can be put out of sight and out of mind).
I liked all the Fitness+ instructors, too. It’s a diverse group in terms of body type, background, and ability, and they’re all referred to by their first name and banter with the other instructors (and at you) throughout the class. All are approachable, personable and, most importantly, great at explaining what you need to do for each exercise. They also tend to keep it surface level, which is to say they don’t encourage you to burrow into your psyche and use the memory of some long-forgotten trauma to power your way up a hill or through one last set of burpees à la Soulcycle and (to a lesser degree) Peloton. Still, you get some sense of working out with a friend that all good workout apps and videos have.
What’s not as great about Apple Fitness+?
I had mixed feelings about the Apple Watch requirement. On one hand, it’s a pricey barrier to entry for an otherwise affordable app that, because it technically can be used without an Apple Watch, feels a little unnecessary. On the other, the app was designed for people with Apple Watches, and it’s reasonable to think that paying for an Apple Watch feels better when you know you’re also paying for the privilege of using Fitness+. Besides, the instructors often reference things that people without Apple Watches can’t access, like the burn bar, fitness rings, and heart rate, which could lessen the experience and overall feeling about the quality of the app. However, I don’t think this is enough to always exclude non Apple Watch-havers—if anything, getting to try out the classes without having an Apple Watch would probably make users more inclined to get one, much like how Peloton’s app classes might make participants consider buying one of its bikes or treads, even if they can’t access the leaderboard.
I didn’t find many flaws with Fitness+ beyond that, but there are some ways I’d like it to grow. The first thing would be by providing more guidance on how to select workouts for people who aren’t total beginners but could still use some instruction on building a sustainable routine. As it is right now, the main focus seems to be on using Fitness+ as a tool to close your rings—which is fine, but probably encourages choosing high-octane classes like HIIT, treadmill, and cycling over ones that don’t burn as many calories but are still important, like strength and yoga. Something like a two week-long program—which could be made up of classes already on the app—that provides a mix of HIIT and strength classes and shows how to use lower-intensity workouts like yoga and walking on recovery days could go a long way.
Fitness+ could also be more accessible to people who don’t own a lot of exercise gear. You could technically use it if you have an Apple Watch, iPhone, exercise mat, and no other equipment—the core, HIIT, dance, walking and yoga classes almost never require anything but body weight. But it’s helpful to have at least some equipment, whether it’s a treadmill, exercise bike, rower, or a set of dumbbells. There are some bodyweight strength classes, but most require medium, heavy, or light dumbbells, so adding more bodyweight-only classes (currently, there are only four out of about 50 that I could find—however, you also can’t filter by equipment needed, so it’s tough to say for sure) will help a lot more people start strength training.
I’d also suggest a few more types of exercise. I enjoyed the walks and yoga classes, but would also like to see a few more low-impact, low-sweat options like barre and Pilates. There could also be some audio-only outdoor running classes to make running more accessible to people who don’t have treadmills. And these classes don’t need to be led by celebrities like the walks; the Fitness+ instructors should be perfectly adequate.
Is Apple Fitness+ worth it?
If you have an Apple Watch, you might as well give Fitness+ a try—you get a free month-long app trial if you already have the watch. And, if you’re planning on buying an Apple Watch, that’s even more reason to test it out, as you get three free months with purchase of a new watch.
However, if you’re not into the idea of having an extra iPhone on your wrist, I wouldn’t get one just for the app, as there are other workout apps that you can use without buying a several hundred-dollar accessory—something like Nike Training Club, for example, is completely free.
Bottom line? If you have an Apple Watch—and maybe a piece of non-connected exercise equipment like a treadmill, exercise bike, or rowing machine—the integration of Fitness+ makes it the workout app to use with it. Sure, there are a lot of other ways to close your rings, but you’ll feel especially great about doing it with Fitness+.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
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Sara Hendricks is an editor with Reviewed covering health and fitness.
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