December 7, 2021
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Apple Fitness+ review: a game-changer for working out at home (if you have an Apple Watch)

standard– They say it’s easy to cut corners when your gym instructor is on a screen, but they clearly haven’t seen how competitive Apple addicts like me can be about closing their activity rings. My instructor Kim might be 5,000 miles away in a sleek light-filled studio in Los Angeles, but there’s something about seeing those familiar rainbow-coloured metrics clock up next to her that makes me push through the squat-jumps like I’m sprinting at the end of my weekly 10k.

Kim tells me to get my heart rate up and my beats-per-minute grows more prominent in the corner of my iPad screen. The music changes to a dance number and the new song title pops down in case I want to add it to my Apple Music. My classmates and I begin 40 seconds of burpees and the allotted interval time starts counting down on my wrist so I don’t have to look up. It feels like the first time I set up an iPhone, but in workout form – naturally, Apple has thought of every tiny detail, from the cool Netflix-style aesthetic to the slick Apple ecosystem integration.

It’s a rainy Sunday in London and I’m lucky enough to be one of the first to try Apple’s hot new workout platform, Fitness+, filmed from its cool, stripped-back studio in California. The shiny new app is billed as “the future of fitness” and features a library of more than 200 on-demand fitness classes from HIIT to dance to yoga for streaming from your iPhone, iPad or Apple TV – all you need is an Apple Watch to unleash the integrated benefits.

What is it?

The platform has been five years in the making – Apple says it’s been in discussion since the birth of the Apple Watch in 2015 – and Apple wants it to be the ultimate flexible working (out) hero for exercising at home. It launches today from just £9.99 a month – just head to the existing Fitness app on your iPhone and hit the new Fitness+ tab for hundreds of 10, 20, 30 or 45-minute classes from dance to strength to core.

There are even sessions led by world experts on how to use a treadmill, exercise bike or rowing machine if you’re new to the equipment or fancy learning how to make it harder. Each one comes with a short, Netflix-style trailer to give you a sense of the class and you can string workouts together if you fancy a mix of genres.

The smartest part? You don’t have to sit through warm-down at the end of each one – just tap ‘mindful cooldown’ when you’re at the end of your overall workout for a full five or ten-minute stretch session. Oh, and you can use your Apple Watch as a remote, starting and pausing the class from your wrist if you’re not in touching distance of your TV, iPad or phone.

The super-squad

As a Londoner, there’s something comforting about scrolling through and seeing familiar faces. Among Apple’s 21 recruits are three from the UK: Jamie-Ray Hartshorne, who boutique gym-goers might recognise from Another Space studio; Jessica Skye, founder of Fat Buddha Yoga and famous for her sunrise sessions at The Gherkin and DJ sets at Soho House; and Kim Ngo, a snowboard-loving former maths teacher and qualified accountant who teaches HIIT.

Naturally, Fitness+’s full instructor squad fits the Apple aesthetic of honed physiques and model looks (you can follow their Instagram pages directly through the app), but there’s a refreshing diversity compared to some fitness apps of old.

Instructors range from those in their twenties to their sixties and there’s an amputee amongst the squad: strength trainer Amir lost a leg eight years ago and can now squat more on one leg than he can on two.

The idea is to make working out at home as inclusive as possible, says Jay Blahnik, the master-architect behind Fitness+ with a CV littered with household names from Nike to Equinox. At £9.99 a month, it’s cheaper than luxury home workout rivals Peloton (£12.99 a month, on top of the bike) and FIIT (£20 a month), and workouts are designed to be non-intimidating.

Instructors have all been taught sign language – you’ll notice their subtle gestures at the start of each class – and they pop up in each other’s classes to demonstrate low-impact modifications for people to try at home.

Working out the workouts

There’s also a whole series for beginners, with explainers on why HIIT is called HIIT and how yoga works. For graduates of the beginner series, there’s a shelf called ‘simple and quick’, which Blahnik insists is no less intense, but easier to follow if you’ve had a long day or are still waking up.

Or you can scroll if you know what you’re after: search classes by workout type or filter by class length, instructor or music preference.

Add them to your favourites, download to use offline later and good news if you’re an Apple Music subscriber: Fitness+ can be your music-discovery tool, too. Just tap on a class to see the workout playlist and you can add it to your library to listen to on your next run.

The verdict

Naturally, it’s one for iPhone addicts already plugged into the Apple ecosystem, but if you have all the gear already, Fitness+ is a gamechanger – you won’t find a more personalised home workout app around. Like FIIT, there’s a video-game-like quality to it.

You can see your heart-rate on screen and a ‘burn bar’ shows you how you’re doing in the pack of who else has taken the class, but unlike other platforms, Fitness+ lets you personalise your metrics, from choosing which counts show up on screen and whether you want time remaining or elapsed as your count-down – whichever motivates you harder.

When you start a heart rate section, your heart-rate metric gets elevated on screen; when you start an interval, a separate interval timer appears; and like the end of a run, you can see all your stats laid out after a class. The most exciting element? A celebration shows up on screen when you close all your rings for the day. Watch out Apple rivals: for iPhone addicts, there’s no better motivator than that.


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