Why Apple Fitness+ Is a Big Deal for COVID Times

Cheaper than the gym, and you don’t have to dress up

Key Takeaways

  • Apple Fitness+ is set to launch in 'late' 2020 aka 'soon.'
  • You need an Apple Watch, and either an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV to play along.
  • Fitness+ may be the best way to stay in shape through the coming COVID winter.
Apple Fitness+ on an iPhone 11 and an Apple Watch 6.
Apple

It’s probably impossible to imagine a better time for Apple’s Fitness+ virtual fitness classes to launch. Winter’s arriving, COVID-19 is still keeping us at home, and many of us are doing way less exercise than we should.

Fitness+ is Apple’s just-about-to-launch range of online fitness classes, only, of course, with an Apple twist. The video classes integrate with your Apple Watch, syncing your activity with what’s happening on screen, and even displaying the relevant metrics—heart rate, elapsed time, calories burned—overlaid on the action.

The service costs $9.99 per month, and it’s going to be huge with regular folks who need an extra kick to get moving. 

"Honestly, it’s for people who otherwise wouldn’t exercise because they find it boring," Graham Bower, a maker of fitness videos and co-developer of fitness app Reps&Sets, told Lifewire via instant message. "And if this is what motivates them then it’s great."

What Is Apple Fitness+

Fitness+ is a set of online classes that play back on your Apple TV, iPad, or iPhone. It lives inside the Fitness app, and on launch will offer courses for yoga, dance, cycling, rowing, and quite a lot more. The app hooks into your Apple Watch, automatically tracking the correct workout type to add to your Exercise ring.

All these metrics are displayed on the main screen so you don’t have to look down to check, say, your heart rate. And the workouts come with playlists from Apple Music, so you can grab those for separate listening if you like. 

"Honestly, it’s for people who otherwise wouldn’t exercise because they find it boring."

The upside for Apple is clear. You have to own an Apple Watch, and you’ll need an Apple device to show the videos. And then you need to pay the $9.99 monthly subscription.

On the other hand, you may already own the hardware, and compared to other online fitness services, it’s actually pretty cheap. A Peloton Digital membership, for instance, costs $12.99 per month, not including the cost of buying a compatible bike (a base model Peloton starts at $1,895, though there are cheaper options from other companies).

Survival of the Fitness

For the stuck-at-home user, this is going to be huge. Fitness+ has well-established rivals, like Peloton and Adidas, but there’s a lot to be said for the ease of the default option.

We all know semi active people who would never seek out online fitness classes, but who would definitely try Fitness+ for a month, especially with the one-month free trial for all current Apple Watch owners (three months is included for new Watch buyers).

Fitness+, then, seems like the perfect product for right now. We can’t go to the gym, the cold weather means it’s harder to get outside for exercise, and we’re already used to interacting with humans via a screen, thanks to Zoom, and family FaceTime calls. Fitness+ could be huge.

Apple Fitness+ on AppleTV, and iPad Pro, an iPhone, and an Apple Watch.
Apple

Apple has already proven itself to be a master of motivation. Using the simple mechanism completing fitness, activity, and standing rings, the Apple Watch has gotten millions of us moving, daily. If it can apply this to these more structured and vigorous workouts, then we really stand to benefit. 

Downsides

There are, of course, disadvantages compared to actual in-person classes, even those conducted via Zoom. A video instructor can’t correct your bad posture, or grab the bar when you try to press too much weight. And some activities, like yoga, can be surprisingly dangerous. It’s easy to do yourself some serious damage, in part because yoga seems so easy and mellow. But that’s true for all video classes.

The advantages of regular exercise far outweigh the small risks of the format itself. Without seeing any classes yet, it’s hard to say that these problems haven’t been largely mitigated by great instructors, anyway.

But there’s one thing that virtual fitness classes will never replace. "The social aspect will be missing for many," says Bower. "I think that’s why a lot of people like classes."

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