Fitness+ is a new $9.99/month (or $79.99/year) exercise video subscription service from Apple. With all the free workouts available on YouTube and similar paid offerings from the likes of Peloton, it needs to be excellent to stand out. So, is it? Let’s find out.
The Watch Requirement
Fitness+ is “powered by the Apple Watch” which means you need one to use it. You can’t even sign up without at least an Apple Watch Series 3 or newer. So, this review kind of needs to be split in two.
First up, if you don’t already own an Apple Watch or intend to buy one, Fitness+ is not worth it. On top of the $80 per year (after a three-month free trial), you’ll have to pay at least another $199 for a Series 3 (which we don’t actually recommend—the SE is a much better value); more if you want a newer watch. Fitness+ is very good, but it’s not so good it’s a reason to buy a watch. If you don’t have an Apple Watch and you had to include that purchase to access the service, we’d score it about a three out of ten. Feel free to read on to see what the fuss is about, but for the rest of the review, I’m going to be focusing on people who already own Apple Watches, intend to buy one anyway, or at least are highly considering it for non-Fitness+ reasons.
If you already own an Apple Watch, Fitness+ is a much more interesting prospect. At $10/month, it’s cheaper than similar services from Les Mills and Peloton. Of course, there’s always free YouTube videos, personal trainers doing Instagram Live workouts, and dozens of other apps offering workout plans, but it then comes down to personal preferences whether Fitness+ offers enough for the money. There isn’t some crazy Apple tax slapped on, so this review should help you decide.
What’s On Offer?
Fitness+ offers 9 different kinds of workout types from 21 personable personal trainers. The categories are:
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
- Mindful Cooldown
There are about 200 workouts live now, with more being added every week. Each one is between 5 and 45 minutes long with a warm up and cool down. The app makes it easy to sort and filter through all the options.
For the majority of Fitness+ workouts, you don’t need much more than a bit of space to swing your arms about and maybe an exercise mat so you don’t slip. The exceptions are strength workouts (and a few HIIT ones) which require two small dumbbells, and the treadmill, cycling, and rowing classes that need the stated cardio trainer. Apple lists the equipment used in the videos on its website.
What supposedly sets Fitness+ apart is how it tightly integrates with your Apple Watch (and other Apple devices). You view a workout on an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV, and your heart rate and total calories burned are displayed live from your Watch. There’s also the “Burn Bar” that tells you how your workout stacks up to other people similar in age, weight, and gender who’ve done the same class. It’s not quite the same as the live rankings you get during a live Peloton Bike workout, but it does give some sense that other people are working out too.
So far, so decent. But is it any good?
A Great App
The Fitness+ app is genuinely great and easy to use. The filters are perfect for surfacing the exact workout you want to do. I was able to quickly find a 10-minute HIIT class set to country music, for example. As the number of classes increases, the filters are only going to become more useful and important.
Similarly, the app does a very good job of suggesting similar workouts to the ones you’ve been doing. You can also save your favorite workouts so you can revisit them—and even download them for when you don’t have an internet connection.
All in all, the app is one area where Fitness+ is significantly better than unsorted free fitness classes on YouTube or Instagram. Finding what you’re looking for isn’t a challenge and there are no pre-roll ads to worry about. If this kind of guided training is something you like to do and you don’t want to just repeat the same three videos, then Fitness+ may be worth it purely for just how well organized the app is. It will save you a lot of time every workout.
High Quality Coaching
If you don’t like the coach, odds are you aren’t going to enjoy the workout—no matter how well programmed it is.
Apple has covered as many bases as it can with its collection of 21 different coaches. For all that they’re a diverse bunch, they all lead every workout with the same perma-smile and slightly-out-of-breath-to-let-you-know-this-is-hard-work-for-me-too coaching style. If it feels their likability feels a little manufactured, it’s probably because it is. Apple, after all, has a certain image it needs to maintain. Still, though, it’s effective and I genuinely liked every trainer I tried.
As for the workouts themselves? I was impressed. Whether they were 10 minutes or 40 minutes long, they felt like a good bit of exercise. The HIIT classes pushed my heart rate up, the strength classes felt like a proper workout, and even the dance classes were pure fun. I think if you have an old treadmill, static bike, or rowing machine sitting neglected, Fitness+ could be the perfect way to break it back in.
Very Beginner Friendly
Fitness+ is designed for anyone at any fitness level. There’s a dedicated Beginners’ playlist if you’re totally new, but really, almost everyone can just jump into any workout you want because of how things are set up.
In pretty much every workout there are three coaches, one of whom is always doing a “low impact,” “no jumping,” or otherwise more accessible option. If there’s squatting they don’t go as deep, if there are press ups they do them with reduced range, and they even power-walk during the treadmill runs. It’s fantastic if you’re starting (or restarting) your fitness journey as there is never a workout you can’t do.
Similarly, the Burn Bar doesn’t rank you against the general population but against similar people. If you’re busting your ass in a workout, that’ll be reflected and you’ll get told you’re “Ahead of the Pack” or “Leading the Pack”. I think, for the right person, it could be pretty motivating.
But how beginner-friendly Fitness+ is might almost be a downside. The movements are deliberately chosen to be accessible, so you won’t find any high rep sets of burpees or lots of jumping lunges. If you’re used to workouts with more intense movements, you’ll have to consciously push yourself harder to get the same kind of workout. It’s the same with the strength sessions: they’re for normal people, not powerlifters looking to set records.
Also, each class is—so, far—a standalone workout. There’s no progression or training plans. You can push yourself harder each week and try and burn more calories if you want, but Fitness+ won’t guide you through the process. Think of it as more classes in a local gym than working out with a personal trainer.
For what it’s worth, I’m reviewing this as someone who does a lot of CrossFit and strength training. I felt Fitness+ wasn’t quite enough for how I like to train, but the workouts still got me sweating. You’ve got to be at a pretty high level of fitness before they won’t.
Music You Know
True to Apple’s roots, music is a big part of Fitness+. Every workout has an Apple Music playlist you can save (though you don’t need an Apple Music account to use Fitness+). The trainers (apparently) chose the tracks themselves and mention them frequently throughout the sessions. You can even filter workouts by the music genre that’s played.
If you haven’t done a lot of online fitness classes, it might surprise you that this gets its own section but it’s actually kind of a big deal. Music licensing laws are byzantine and Peloton recently had to settle a suit over it. Most free workout videos use generic, royalty-free electro, so it is nice to hear recognizable tracks.
Really, the music options shouldn’t be a reason to choose Fitness+, but I was surprised by how much I liked them. They certainly don’t make the service, but they do give it a bit of extra personality and polish.
Excellent—But Not Exceptional
I’ve said I was surprised a few times in this review, and truly, I have been. Fitness+ is very very good. While the Apple Watch features aren’t tacked on, they feel, in a sense, unnecessary. The app, the trainers, and the quality of the workouts stole the show—I didn’t really care that my heart rate was on screen or that the Burn Bar compared me to other people.
As I said at the start, Fitness+ is absolutely not a good enough reason to buy an Apple Watch. But if you have one and you have any interest in this kind of exercise, you’d be crazy not to check out the one-month free trial. Whether or not it’s worth the $10/month depends, like with every workout-related thing, on if you use it or not.
Really, Fitness+ is exactly what it purports to be: a very good set of online workout videos from some very smiley and engaging trainers. If working out is your thing (or you want it to be) and you aren’t looking for something a lot more intense, it’s easy to recommend. If you didn’t need an Apple Watch, I’d recommend it even more.
Here’s What We Like
- Great coaches, great app, great variety of workouts.
- Very beginner friendly.
- Apple Watch app and the other device apps work seamlessly together.
And What We Don't
- You need an Apple Watch.
- Said Apple Watch features feel kind of unnecessary.
- Won't be hard enough for some people.