Diversity in instructors
Wide range of classes
Classes accessible to people of all sizes and ability
Not many high-intensity options
What is Joyn?
Joyn is a workout app with a clear mission: To make movement enjoyable for anyone, regardless of size or ability. The fitness platform is aligned with HAES (Health at Every Size)—a movement that promotes size acceptance and works to end weight discrimination—and "body neutrality," which aims to help people find peace with their bodies and what they can do with them.
Joyn’s classes range in accessibility and variety, with options for conventional standing classes and seated yoga and cardio classes. Its instructors are diverse in size, background, and ability, and stress that every body is different and to do as much as you can in each workout without pushing yourself too far. Joyn doesn’t promote intense muscle gains or weight loss—instead, the emphasis is on getting your heart rate up and feeling good.
How does Joyn work?
You can sign up for Joyn on its website or through its app on Google Play or the iOS App Store. It is free to use for 30 days; after that, it's $9.99 a month. For reference, this is less expensive than some apps such as Peloton ($12.99 a month) and Obé ($27 a month), the same price as Apple Fitness+, and more expensive than Nike Training Club, which is free. When signing up, you must enter your credit card information, but you won’t be charged if you cancel before your 30 days are up (although you have to keep track of that yourself, as Joyn won’t remind you that your trial is almost up). Even if you cancel before your 30 days are up, you’re still able to use the platform until that 30th day—so you could theoretically cancel right after signing up and still get your 30 days without worrying about getting charged.
Once you’ve signed up, the app allows you to stream videos to Apple TV, Chromecast, or AirPlay enabled devices. You can also download all videos for offline use, which is handy if you have spotty internet where you like to exercise.
What is it like to work out with Joyn?
Signing up for Joyn gives you access to all of the website’s content and there’s a lot of it, with more than 300 classes in its backlog. The classes are broken down into different categories: cardio, HIIT, yoga, dance, Pilates, and stretching. But that’s only the start of it. When browsing for classes, you have additional options to narrow down your results within each category to see more specific ones like “Tai Chi,” “Strengthening,” or “Meditation” classes. Classes can be filtered based on duration, ranging from five to 60 minutes. There’s an option for selecting low, medium, or high intensity classes and you can also pick a class taught by a specific instructor. Even better, about four to eight new videos are uploaded every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. Most classes use body weight only for resistance, but a handful recommend additional equipment, like a yoga wheel or blocks.
What we like about the Joyn app
I’ve never seen a workout program that makes such a clear effort to include all kinds of people. Many workouts on Joyn call out queer pride in their titles, such as “Queer Dance Crush” and “Intro to Waacking.” (Waacking is a style of dance that was made popular in LGBT clubs in the 1970s.) But Joyn also integrates inclusivity in more subtle ways. For example, at the start of almost every class, the instructor gives an introduction with their name and pronouns. And groups that typically don’t have as much representation in the fitness world, such as BIPOC, transgender and nonbinary people, and people with disabilities make up a portion of Joyn’s instructor base—you can even filter your “Instructor Type” so you only see workouts done by instructors who identify under those labels.
After trying a bunch of Joyn’s classes, I appreciate the steps instructors took to make sure everyone taking the class felt comfortable. In most exercise videos I’ve done in the past, instructors start with the "normal" version of whatever move they're doing then go down to a modified “easy” version to show people how to do it "if you need to." But in the end, instructors usually go back to doing the more complicated version—which makes me feel like I’m not getting as much as I can out of the workout if I stick with the modified moves. In Joyn’s videos, instructors do the exact opposite. They start with the modified version, to accommodate people of different sizes and abilities, then build up to more advanced versions for those who are capable.
For example, I have a history of shoulder dislocations so I’m always nervous to raise my arms above my head or put a lot of my body weight on my shoulders for fear of injuring myself again. Many classes I’ve taken prior to Joyn have never acknowledged that some moves, while easy for some, can be difficult and even nerve-racking for others. Joyn's format makes modifications much simpler. In one workout, when I was instructed to do an exercise that involved putting my arm over my head or using my arms to hold my body up, I never felt ashamed for not doing it “perfectly.” There were always variations, like going onto your elbows, and the instructor did them right alongside you. Some of the time, the “modification” was the baseline and then the instructor would offer the “normal” pose as a harder option if you felt like you needed a little more push. I thought this was incredible—it didn’t make anyone who might be unable to do the more difficult variation feel bad, but it still felt good to level up when I could.
I also tried one of the seated cardio workouts, a chair HIIT video, and it was really cool. There are a lot of days when I know I should work out, but after a long day working at my desk job, I just don’t want to stand up or lie down on my mat—I just want to maintain stasis. This series helped with that in a big way. On days when rolling out my yoga mat seemed unattainable, sitting at my desk chair for a 30-minute workout was doable. The instructor was super motivational and confident, and called out moves like jogging in place, boxing punches, criss-cross abs (yes, while seated), and many more. Being able to do these moves from my chair and still break a sweat felt empowering. It was definitely easier than standing cardio, but it still got my heart rate up—and it was easier on my body.
Finally, Joyn has a nice, fashion-related touch that no other app we’ve tested offers. Many of the videos have a rundown of the instructor’s outfit in the description with their size and a quote about why they like it, and links to buy it if you choose. This could seem like a shameless money grab, but to me, it was genuinely helpful. Part of Joyn’s appeal is getting to work out with “unconventional” instructors who are more likely to resemble the average person than a Victoria’s Secret model. So when I saw an instructor wearing, say, a pair of leggings and a crop top, I had a better idea of what the outfit would look like on me than usual. Plus, just getting to watch instructors moving confidently and happily in their clothes helps deliver on Joyn’s body confidence and empowerment message—and helped me learn about some cool brands that offer cute plus size options like Knix and Fabletics.
What we don’t like about the Joyn app
Joyn’s app works well—I used it on my iPhone XR with barely any hitches—but the website has a lot of bugs. The video player has some issues if you want to pause or skip to another part of the video—it just won’t load or un-pause, and sometimes the only fix is a hard refresh. The site also didn’t seem to show me all the available workouts in a category. Theoretically, there are two pages of “Seated” workouts, but when I tried to click on the second page, it just took me back to the main browsing section full of all videos, including standing ones. This was pretty easy to fix by switching to the app on my phone, which didn’t have the same problems as the site. But I like to watch workout videos on my laptop for the larger screen, so this was a little bit of a bummer. Also, for a platform that strives to be accessible to all, Joyn does not currently have closed captioning on its videos—however, a rep from the brand told me a closed-caption feature is in the works.
Joyn allows you to browse classes by “Instructor type,” with options including “transgender” and “disabled,” but when I tried to do this, there wasn’t a single video under either tag. Under “nonbinary,” there’s just one video. I’m hoping this is because Joyn is a relatively new app and these categories will grow as they expand their roster of instructors. But for now, it definitely was a letdown—why have the categories there if you’re not going to have anything in them?
My one other complaint is that, overall, the workouts aren’t that intense. This is great for gentler exercises like yoga and stretching, and there are a ton of soothing meditation videos, but I found that I didn’t have many options when I wanted to get really sweaty. Joyn has a “High Intensity” tag, but it only contains 15 workouts. I tried some boxing workouts in this category, and the pace was slower than other programs I’ve tried. You can make it harder with variations from the instructors and the usual encouragement to go at your own pace—but sometimes this meant going faster than the instructor, which felt a little strange. I preferred this to a workout that made me feel insecure for not being able to keep up with the instructor, but I think Joyn could still add a little intensity without becoming overbearing.
Should you get the Joyn app?
I believe that Joyn is a great start for someone who wants to get into exercise but hasn’t found anything that entices them yet. For most workout newbies, the Joyn sessions won’t be so intense that you’ll feel discouraged, but they’re still tough enough that you’ll break a sweat and feel good about yourself when you’re done. The app also offers a safe space to try out different exercises you might never have thought to try before—I’d usually shy away from harder workouts for the fear of the shame that I couldn’t keep up, but using Joyn’s workouts made me feel like I was growing at my own pace. If your experience is anything like mine, however you choose to use Joyn, you’ll find a way to celebrate your body through fitness.
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