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I used Apple Fitness Plus for 7 days: Here's my honest review
As a wearables reviewer, covering fitness content comes with the territory. In fact, it’s a perk of the job. Typically, my workouts include whatever activities are required to test out a device’s heart rate monitor, GPS accuracy, and a few niche workout modes, (plus a couple of extra yoga sessions to appease my apparently decrepit joints). Review periods often lead to repetitive interval work on a stationary bike and drawn-out neighborhood runs.
This week, without a specific device to test, I gave an entire platform my attention. I cycled, stretched, walked, and more to dig into what Apple has to offer its paying subscribers. Find out what I discovered in my honest review of Apple Fitness Plus after seven days of use.
What you need to know about Apple Fitness Plus
Like any workout app, Apple Fitness Plus aims to help users reach their fitness goals. The platform offers a huge library of prerecorded workout classes led by first-rate instructors. These classes cover the gamut of at-home exercises, including Core, Cycling, Dance, HIIT, Meditation, Mindful Cooldown, Pilates, Rowing, Strength, Treadmill Run, Walking, and Yoga. Users can handpick workouts day by day, or follow curated programs tailored to specific goals and themes.
Recently, Apple opened the Fitness Plus experience to anyone with an iPhone willing to pay for the services. The Fitness Plus subscription fee runs $9.99 per month or $79.99 if you opt to pay annually. However, new users can trial-run the service for one month free. With the purchase of an iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, or Apple TV, new users can even pocket three free months before ponying up.
Apple Fitness Plus offers an extensive library of quality workout classes to anyone with an iPhone.
Still, Apple Fitness Plus offers a uniquely practical experience to Apple Watch wearers. When you work out wearing your device, your heart rate, calories, and activity stats will be displayed on-screen so you can watch your rings close in real time. This helps users stay motivated and gauge their intensity throughout their workout.
With or without a watch, Apple Fitness Plus is a powerful fitness platform for tapping into quality content and guided exercise. If you value structured workouts and peppy motivation, the service should be up your alley. It offers users the accountability and incentive of group fitness classes without leaving the comfort of their homes. If you hate the smell of yoga studios, or simply loathe the idea of wearing yoga pants out of the house, Apple Fitness Plus has you covered.
Fitness app experience
At face value, the Apple Fitness Plus service has a lot to offer. For starters, you can access quality instructions right from your home. Users will find a seemingly endless list of workouts ranging from five to 45 minutes in length for a dozen types of exercise, including meditation. Off the bat, I can see how the 45-minute max might be short for some serious athletes, but you can always double up with two classes in a row.
The easiest way to dig in is to select a workout type from the scrollable banner at the top of the app’s home screen. That’ll open a menu of workouts available for that exercise. If you’re new to a particular type of workout, like cycling, for example, the menu header includes a brief description of the workout’s benefits. You can also watch a Getting Started video to learn how to get going. If this isn’t your first rodeo, (or, in this case, ride), you can skip down to the workout list or filter the options by trainer, time, or music.
The trainers on Apple Fitness Plus are a high point. I was impressed by the diversity in age, gender, race, and body type, and in the week I used the service, I encountered multiple instructors I genuinely enjoyed. I wouldn’t say I am easily put off by people, but I didn’t expect to immediately find favorites either. If Bakari isn’t as nice in real life as he seems in his videos, I will be devastated.
The platform features a diverse team of fitness trainers across each type of exercise.
The trainers also make appearances in each other’s videos to offer extra bodies and options for modifications. Currently still limited by a knee repair earlier this year, I appreciated the alt HIIT moves for a lower-impact workout. Where I could have used more modification was in the singular Dance workout I attempted. Unfortunately, it turns out there’s no special set of moves for users with no rhythm.
Before you start a workout, you can read a short description of the class and watch a preview video to see what you’re in for. You can even glance at what music to expect. These landing pages are helpful, though not entirely foolproof. I would have loved to see courses rated for difficulty level within the app like many other fitness apps.
The lack of difficulty rating ties to another major point: Apple Fitness Plus is a platform for the masses. Classes are approachable and basic navigation is user-friendly. Maxing out at 45 minutes, the platform’s workouts are meant to help users fit fitness into their daily lives. Instead of adhering to gym schedules, you can work out at your convenience, with minimal equipment or commitment. Case in point, I was able to complete more than a dozen workouts this week, and all it took was shoving my couch aside a few times.
Apple Fitness Plus keeps classes approachable and easy to fit into your daily life.
However, the app also borders on being too basic. If you are heavily invested in a specific type of exercise, you may find the classes too easy, or again, too short. There are also no live classes, so if you are coming from an app like Peloton with human interaction, that may also be an adjustment. Not one to enjoy working out with other people, the recorded structure works for me personally.
Two unique features that Apple Fitness Plus totes are the Time to Walk and Time to Run audio experiences. Time to Walk includes stories from famous individuals, evidently also taking a walk. Typically the person describes the location where they are strolling, then tells stories about their life or career. Each session also includes a few of the headliner’s favorite songs.
For me, Time to Walk became a new binge. I regularly walk a few miles a day, so it was easy to incorporate this feature into my existing routine. Each episode felt like peeking behind the curtain into the life of someone I’d only ever known in a single dimension. Most times, the episode didn’t last the entirety of my walk, but I didn’t mind because I liked the chance to get lost in thought afterward as well. However, I eventually found myself playing episodes while editing photos or prepping dinner, which isn’t exactly the point. I also became deeply enchanted by Dr. Jane Goodal’s story and may or may not have watched Tarzan after she talked about how much she loved the book as a kid.
The app's audio experiences for walks and runs offer a unique tool to users looking for entertainment out on the road or on the treadmill.
On the other hand, I couldn’t buy into Time to Run. This feature offers curated playlists and run coaching from a Fitness Plus instructor. Each episode also features a location that the instructor describes between songs and shares photos of throughout the run. For me personally, the series feels pretty convoluted and distracting. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all about keeping my mind off my level of sweating or the volume of my breathing. However, Time to Run didn’t offer that type of welcome distraction; it was more of a disruptive and constant reminder that I was still, in fact, running.
That said, many users have a lot of positive things to say about the feature. It’s likely best suited to those new to running or just starting on their training journey. For Apple Watch users, the automatic syncing between the workouts and your Fitness app is also helpful. For now, though, I’ll be sticking with Spotify playlists and my own thoughts.
Meanwhile, for the musically inclined, Apple Fitness Plus also offers Artist Spotlight with workouts based on and grouped by popular artists. Currently, you can find collections from a diverse range of performers including Elton John, The Rolling Stones, and, of course, Taylor Swift. The classes in these collections feature the artist’s music and draw inspiration from their song’s lyrics. In some cases, it feels quite forced. In others, it’s just fun. As always, the feature could use more variety, but Apple does a decent job of adding content regularly.
When you find a workout you love, you can add it to your library. Unfortunately, there is no way to group workouts into folders within your library. There isn’t really any way to organize your library coherently. I would love to tap into my library and pull up just yoga workouts or scroll through all my favorite Strength classes. In an ideal world, Apple would add difficulty ratings as well so I could open my library and easily find a moderate, cycling workout while I’m still half asleep at 6 AM.
Apple Watch integration
Hands down, Apple Watch integration is the single biggest selling point of Apple Fitness Plus. Personally, I am fully capable of ignoring an upbeat trainer cheering me on. What I can’t ignore are numbers.
With an Apple Watch, your heart rate, calories burned, and fitness rings display right on the screen, so you can see your unavoidable stats in real-time. You can literally watch your rings close as you work to earn on-screen kudos. Throughout the workout, prompts alert you to what heart rate you should be shooting to hit. Likewise, a Burn Bar shows you how your performance compares to other users of the same weight. It turns out I can be highly motivated by a “Behind the Pack” alert.
True to form, Apple offers dynamic integration between the Apple Watch and Apple Fitness platform that's a game changer.
Additionally, the Fitness Plus workouts automatically sync with your Apple Watch to start workouts and record data to your Fitness app. At the end of a workout, you can immediately review your stats in the Summary tab. If you want to do a Time to Walk or Time to Run workout, you can leave your phone at home and play the content from your watch. You can also use your watch to pause and play workouts on your phone or Apple TV.
Will Apple Fitness Plus get you in shape?
The sad truth is no app can get you in shape. If I got a six-pack every time I downloaded a core workout app, I’d have entirely too many abs. Whether or not Apple Fitness Plus will help your reach your fitness goals is entirely dependent on how much time and effort you put in. To that end, Apple has made it very easy for people to put in both. Classes are energetic and quick. Trainers are articulate, helpful, and easy to follow. The app isn’t perfect, but it has a lot of tools that make working out easier, and in some cases, even fun.
If you’re a creature of habit, there is a good chance a trial period with Apple Fitness Plus will turn into regular use. The workouts are so manageable it’s easy to talk yourself into a quick spin before work or a HIIT class after dinner. There are also a few Programs available for more dedicated training, such as Stay Active During Pregnancy or Get Ready for Snow Season. The app could benefit from more of these, as well as more Collections. Collections are similar to Programs in that they help users stay focused on particular fitness or mindfulness goals. Examples include the 30-Day Core Challenge and Wind Down Before Bedtime. These sets make it easy for new users, in particular, to build momentum. Again though, the options are somewhat limited.
Compared to my regular review experience, working out with Apple Fitness Plus felt fresh and entertaining. Workouts were challenging enough to feel productive, but not so hard that I dreaded the next one. The app is straightforward to use and a great experience with an Apple Watch involved.
However, I can’t imagine relying on Apple Fitness Plus exclusively for my workouts. As mentioned earlier, I don’t see using the app for running, which is one of my main forms of cardio. There are also no swim workouts (for obvious reasons). Finally, I struggled to find meditation classes I would want to repeat or instructors I was especially comfortable following.
Apple Fitness Plus is a solid investment for access to fresh content and a variety of exercises, but it's particularly valuable for those new to working out.
Whether Apple Fitness Plus is worth the cost depends on your fitness level. For serious athletes, I can see supplementing your regular routine with a few classes a week to mix things up. This may be worth $9.99 a month, but similar content might also be available elsewhere for free. For beginners or anyone new to fitness, the app is a great place to find structure and routine. Accordingly, the monthly price is likely worth shelling out to build better habits and find enjoyment in working out.