Many live class options
Easy to follow
Cardio dance classes
Difficult to follow
What is Obé?
Allow me to set the scene. I was holding a plank, my Pilates instructor was inside her rainbow-colored box, and she was calling out to me.
“Let’s go, Sara in Boston!” she said. “You can do it!”
Before you ask, no: I wasn’t having a fever dream or watching a Hype Williams music video. I was taking a class on Obé, a workout app that films exercise instructors in bright, pleasantly-hued boxes-slash-exercise rooms from its studio in Brooklyn, and beams them to your phone, tablet, TV, or laptop screen wherever you are.
Obé (allegedly an acronym of "our body electric" and pronounced as “obey”) is a workout app that offers live and on-demand Pilates, yoga, barre, cardio dance, cardio boxing, HIIT, and strength training classes for $27 a month. It also offers a one-week free trial. Most of its workouts are 28 minutes long, though yoga classes are usually 50 minutes long and some Pilates classes stretch to 45 minutes. There are also options for five-, 10-, and 15-minute “express” classes.
Based on its sunny color palette and workout types, it appears to be geared at young women who live in metropolitan areas and are susceptible to buying things off of Instagram. Because I fall smack-dab in the middle of this demographic (I write this to you from my cramped urban apartment while wearing a pair of Girlfriend Collective bike shorts, an Outdoor Voices crop top, and facing a plant I ordered from The Sill), I saw a lot of Obé ads on my Instagram and Facebook feeds even pre-pandemic. So, when I got a chance to try it, I was already beyond curious to see what it was all about.
How does Obé work?
When you sign up for Obé, you take a brief quiz to gauge your fitness level that asks about your fitness experience and what kind of workouts you like to do. Then, it directs you to its dashboard, where it shows you the live class schedule for the day, with a few other suggested on-demand classes or programs. If there is a live class airing, it will already be playing on mute on the home screen—if you want to join, you click on it to unmute and expand it.
The teachers can’t actually see you in the live classes—at least, I’m pretty sure they can’t—but they do see a list of names of the people in the class and the cities they live in. This makes it seem like they can see you, because they shout out things like “Great work, Ashley!” and “Way to go, Janelle!” and imply that they know you are trying your very best, rather than staring at the screen without moving as you try to catch your breath. If you live in a big city, they may name-check it (hence the “Sara in Boston” shout-out I got), but if you live somewhere with a smaller population, it seems like they skip it. Obé does not reveal how many people are in its classes, so, other than hearing the names in the occasional shout-outs, there’s no way to tell how many other people are doing lunges, bicycles, and downward dogs along with you.
What’s good about Obé?
Obé accomplishes the difficult feat of making virtual fitness classes fun. There are a lot of classes to take, and all of them—well, all the ones I tried—gave me a genuine burn but still went by quickly. Most days, I found a single 28-minute class sufficient, but it’s also easy to double up (in the live schedule, Obé usually puts two complementary classes next to one another, like a lower body strength class followed by an upper body strength class) or add on a 10-minute ab session after a HIIT class, should you feel so inclined. Most classes have a warmup but no cool down (which I liked when I was stacking classes, so it’s probably for that reason), but Obé has five- and 10-minute stretch classes on-demand, so it’s easy to set up your own post-class cool down when you’re done working out.
The music that plays during most classes is what I like to refer to as “Selling Sunset music”—that is, algorithm-produced tunes that are engineered to sound a little bit like Rihanna, a little bit like Ariana Grande, and a little bit like Shawn Mendes, and play in the background of a lot of reality TV shows—but some of the live classes play songs by actual artists. Usually, I’d get hung up on the elevator music, but the instructors fill the silence by talking to you—sometimes by commenting on the exercises, sometimes by giving people shout-outs, and sometimes by just talking about what they did over the past weekend—so I didn’t end up minding it.
I also felt more drawn to live classes on Obé than I did with any other app I tried. This is partially because joining the classes feels so intuitive, and also because there’s a good amount of them—on weekdays, there’s a 28-minute class every half hour from 7 a.m. ET to 8 or 8:30 p.m. ET, and on weekends, live classes play from 9 a.m. to 4 or 4:30 p.m. Of course, this schedule may benefit East Coasters more than those out west, though I did hear a few Colorado and California shout-outs, even in earlier classes.
This takes a lot of decision-making out of the exercise process—something you will know well if you’ve ever searched for something like “ab workout” on YouTube, and had to scroll through the seemingly limitless options available to find the exact ab workout you want to do. If you decide to work out every weekday at, say, 8 a.m., you’d have a great, variety-filled schedule without having to think about it.
That said, you aren’t tied to the live schedule, either. You can search for classes on-demand—there are more than 4,000 available, according to Obé’s site—or join one of Obé’s fitness programs, such as “7-Day Arms” (a lifting program) or “30-Day Endorphins” (a dance cardio program) which gives you a preselected set of videos in a more concentrated category to do over a certain period of time. You can also download classes in case you want to exercise in a place where you don't have service or don't want to use your data.
What’s not great about Obé?
If you're looking for something to lead you through treadmill runs, stationary bike rides, and outdoor walks, Obé is not the program for you. Its offerings are all floor and mat-based (other than a class called “Bounce,” which requires a trampoline, and that I did not get to try out). Its options are varied enough that I don’t think anyone would get bored with the offerings, but it favors working with your body rather than with big gym equipment—which is to say, it probably won’t help you rack up more miles on your treadmill, if that’s something you’re looking to do.
Obé’s classes aren’t totally gear-free, however. A decent amount only require body weight—mostly the cardio dance, boxing, and HIIT classes, and there’s an option to filter “no equipment used” for any kind of workout when you search the on-demand options—but many call for at least one kind of equipment. It’s all small, relatively inexpensive stuff, such as resistance loops, hand weights, sliders, ankle weights, and yoga blocks. In most cases, these can also be subbed in with household items, and instructors are pretty good about mentioning how to modify moves if you don’t have the equipment.
On one hand, this is a good way to use equipment you may already have, as in addition to filtering out equipment-based workouts, you can also look for workouts that use a certain kind of equipment. On the other, it made tuning in for classes a little less inviting. For example, if I saw that a morning Pilates class required a set of one- to three-pound weights, sliders, and a resistance loop, and I didn’t have all the stuff and didn’t feel like DIY-ing it, I wouldn’t be as inclined to tune into that class as I would be if it didn’t require much. So, from my point of view, getting a good experience with Obé depends on if you’re OK with buying a few small pieces of equipment. If so, resistance loops, ankle weights, sliders, and barre balls are all sold in Obé’s online store.
Is Obé worth it?
At $27 a month, Obé is more expensive than most workout apps. Subscribing for a longer period of time makes it more affordable—you can sign up for a quarterly subscription that costs $65 for three months (about $22 a month) or a full year for $199, or about $17 a month—and even at full price, it’s not as pricey as many gyms or boutique workout studios, which often charge $27 or more for a single drop-in class.
Still, I had a little bit of trouble justifying the cost when comparing it to other apps. Nike Training Club is free, Peloton is $12.99 a month, and Aaptiv is $14.99 a month. All three of these apps scored higher than Obé in our overall test, and offer similar (and sometimes more extensive) workout options. The one thing that sets Obé apart from these others, though, is that it offers live Pilates, dance, and barre classes. Aaptiv has Pilates and barre but not dance classes and none of its offerings are live; Peloton has live classes but does not offer Pilates, dance, or barre; and Nike does not currently offer Pilates, barre, dance, or consistent live classes. So, if taking live Pilates and barre classes (and yoga, strength training, and all the rest) is important to you, then Obé is worth it. If not, a different app may be the way to go.
Should you get Obé?
Sure, I have nitpicks. But, on the whole, Obé does what it needs to do. It’s fun, easy to use, and, most importantly, made me feel more excited about exercising at home than not—which is exactly what a workout app is supposed to do. At the very least, if you’re interested in Pilates, dance, and barre classes, it’s worth giving the free trial a shot.
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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