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Credit: Apple

I Tried the Apple Fitness+ Streaming Service — Here's the DL

Get a Shape editor’s honest take on Apple’s workout streaming platform.
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If you had to guess how many workout streaming options exist at this given moment, what would your estimate be? A gazillion? Same.

With so many options out there, anyone entering the streaming space has to think long and hard about what will set them apart. When you're asking people to open up a device and click "play" on your content instead of everyone else's — and to get them to pay you, and keep coming back — how do you make the best impression? How do you lock them in not only to the workout itself but also to the vibe, the community, and the promise of evolution… all before they realize they've drunk the Kool-Aid?

Some fitness brands leverage the human-connection element, employ irresistibly trendy branding, tout celeb-status trainers, or sell the experience with top-of-the-line equipment.

But then, there's Apple, in a league of its own as always. The tech giant launched its fitness streaming service, Apple Fitness+, in December 2020. While the tech brand entered a saturated market, it has something no one else can really touch: All your devices. Apple is already on your wrist, in your pocket, in your kid's hands, and on your TV. And that's exactly what makes Apple Fitness+ special.

apple-fitness
Credit: Apple

What Is Apple Fitness+?

Apple's new Fitness+ service hinges on the ease and simplicity of seamlessly connecting your devices — namely, your Apple Watch with your iPad, iPhone, or Apple TV. Your Watch connects with whatever device you're streaming on, so you can see all your workout metrics (heart rate, calories, time, and activity ring status) right on the screen; on the flip side, you can also control (play, pause) the workout from your Watch. During a Fitness+ class, when the trainer tells you to keep an eye on your heart rate, that number is immediately highlighted on screen. And when the workout ends, your Apple Watch automatically stops the workout session (a saving grace for people like me who forget to hit "stop" at the end of a workout, and accidentally log a 4-hour yoga session). You can even download Fitness+ workouts onto your iPad or iPhone so you can access them on the go or without Wi-Fi. At a hotel or friend's house with Apple TV? You can easily hop onto that device to work out as long as you have your Apple Watch on. (Related: The Best Fitness Tracker Watches to Help You Reach Your Goals)

Apple Fitness+ is housed in the Fitness app (where Watch users have historically accessed their daily stats, logged workouts, and tracked activity awards, etc.) and is almost too easy to cue up. Strap on your Watch, make three clicks on your Apple TV, iPad, or iPhone, and the exact Fitness+ workout you're craving is ready — in less time than it'll take you to put on your leggings. 

How Much Does Apple Fitness+ Cost?

You have 200+ workouts at your disposal, with more being added every week, all for the cool price of $10/month or $80/year. (After buying Apple devices to use it with, of course. Just saying: Apple is currently offering three free months of Fitness+ when you buy a Watch.) You can also take advantage of the Apple Fitness+ month-long free trial to try every workout and figure out what will take your exercise routine from "ugh, workout time" to "it's my time to SHINE" (because sweat).

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Sure, Apple does the tech well. But can Fitness+ compete with top-notch trainers and studios when it comes to workout design? If you're rooting for a dig of a review, hate to break it to you, but I'll be damned if Apple doesn't do the fitness part really well, too.

What the Apple Fitness+ Classes Are Really Like

I decided to test and review Apple Fitness+ as if I were running my own home weekend wellness retreat, packing as many different workouts in as possible (within reason), so that I could get a taste of it all. Apple Fitness+ offers 10 modalities, including yoga, rowing, HIIT, strength, core, cycling, dance, walking, running, and mindful cooldown, so I had a lot to choose from.

On the evening of day 1, I decided to try a 20-minute, bite-sized (but serious) HIIT workout, followed by a 10-minute mindful cooldown, both cued up on an iPad tucked into the "workout corner" of my New York City apartment. My wellness retreat "welcome workout," if you will.

Well, in the first six minutes of Kim Ngo's Fitness+ HIIT class, I learned a new HIIT move. (As someone who essentially lives to work out and who's worked at Shape for five years now, that's no small shock.) By the middle of the routine, we were singing J. Lo together. And by the end, I was Googling where her cute Nike crop top is currently for sale. (Spoiler: Nike must have outfitted the entire trainer crew, and you're going to want to buy everything.) Color me sweaty, out of breath, and impressed. For one, this HIIT was real HIIT; none of that "leisurely interval training labeled as HIIT just because it sounds productive and sexy" stuff. (Sigh. That rant is for another day.) And listen up, beginners: The modifications were on point. I worried I wouldn't be able to do all the moves because jumping and a 5th-floor apartment usually don't mix. But Apple Fitness+ workouts are all demonstrated by three instructors, including one doing low-impact or beginner modifications at all times, so I could pick and choose when to dial it back or when to level up and scare my downstairs neighbors.

DJ and yogi Jessica Skye's mindful Fitness+ cooldown was a joy, the perfect mix between the post-HIIT stretching that I needed and the yoga vibes that I wanted. Plus, with a moment of meditation at the end, I could check another thing off my to-do list for the day. So far, so good.

On day 2, I started my morning with a leisurely 30-minute yoga practice with Dustin Brown, a yogi, Brazilian jiu jitsu blackbelt, and surfer based in Santa Monica. I unfurled my yoga mat inches from my television and cued up the Fitness+ class on Apple TV so I could feel as close to being in a real yoga studio as possible. And, trust me, the Apple Fitness+ studio in Los Angeles, where Apple films all the workouts, is somewhere you want to be: The ultra-modern wood interior, exposed brick, and jungle of plants just outside the windows are a welcome escape from looking around my messy apartment. Mid-flow, I became obsessed with whatever song was playing in the background. (If you love stealing songs from trainers' playlists in class, this just might be the hallmark feature for you.) Instead of interrupting my Chaturanga to ask Siri to ID it from my Apple Watch, I waited until I finished my workout, and then I opened the Fitness app on my iPhone and found the song listed in the class playlist. More great news: During a workout, at the start of every new track, Apple Fitness+ actually flashes the song card in the top right corner of the screen. When I closed my green exercise ring (signaling that I'd met my 30-minute workout goal for the day), I got the sweet satisfaction of seeing it do a shimmery celebration on the screen. Talk about a wonderful way to start the day.

For the next day 2 session of my DIY fitness retreat, I tuned in for a 30-minute dumbbell strength workout with Sam Sanchez, a petite Latina powerhouse whose smart programming tricked me (happily) into working harder than I intended. Again, the Apple Fitness+ workout proved itself to be surprisingly scalable: Sanchez slowly broke down the dumbbell clean in a way I think even my most uncoordinated friend would have understood. For the already initiated, we got the green light to let 'em rip.

I followed up with a 10-minute mindful cooldown with Gregg Cook, who led a series of stretches and a few minutes of meditation that made me wonder why the fitness community doesn't finish every workout class with a guided meditation. As he pulled me out from under my endorphin stupor, I felt an odd rush of affection for this guy that could totally be my friend's dad or my cool uncle. The Apple Fitness+ trainers are scary good at being on camera but still always manage to come off as real human beings you could reach out and hug.

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Credit: Apple

On day 3, I woke up, well, sore. The perfect antidote? Fitness+ dance workout. I'd heard great things about dance instructor and choreographer LaShawn Jones (who'd appeared in my HIIT workout on day 1). Over the course of 30 minutes, she taught a solid chunk of choreography, tapping into some of my personal cheerleading skills that have definitely gone stale this year. Rest assured, you don't need to show up to these dance workouts with skill, though; Jones broke down each step and repeated them plenty of times before moving on to the next. And even though this isn't energizer-bunny dance cardio (you know, the kind where you're jumping for 40 minutes straight?), I watched my heart rate on the screen go up to about 140 bpm, a solid moderate-intensity workout for me. (Related: The Best Fitness Trackers Under $500)

Afterward, I tacked on a 10-minute core session taught by Amir Ekbatani, a former UCLA football star who lost his lower left leg in a motorcycle accident. Ekbatani coached me through a difficult set of sprinter sit-ups and a banger Pure Dance music playlist. Each Apple Fitness+ workout is labeled with the style of music played throughout, a choice of nine genres including hip-hop/R&B, throwback hits, country, Latin grooves, and more. (And if you aren't feeling any of them, you can filter for your desired genres when you're picking a Fitness+ workout.)

As the finale for my glorious "retreat," I added a 10-minute slow yoga flow with the ever-so-badass Molly Fox, a 60-something yoga teacher who truly embodies the movement for strength at any age.

I'm dying to try the Apple Fitness+ treadmill walking/running and rowing workouts next — and if the other classes are any indication, they'll likely meet my expectations set by years of boutique studio workouts in NYC. (Related: The Best Cardio Equipment for an At-Home Workout)

So, Is Apple Fitness+ Worth It?

As far as workout platforms go, Apple did its reputation — and its competition — justice in creating a seamless, impressive platform that both delivers on content and tech.

My only critiques of Apple Fitness+ are small things, really, and things that will likely come with time: I'd love the option to filter by equipment needed in the strength section to more easily navigate to bodyweight workouts; to link two Apple Watches at once, so both my roommate and I can suffer through the same HIIT session together; to have a tiny more class variety (think: rowing or treadmill workouts that also incorporate weights); and to have the option to take these incredible instructors with me for guided outdoor audio runs. That said, it was hard for me to find critiques of Fitness+.

In the end, the only real downside to Apple Fitness+ — the fact that you need an Apple Watch and other Apple devices to partake — is the factor that truly differentiates it from everything else out there. No, Fitness+ is not yet another workout streaming service. It's an entire workout ecosystem unlocked by those three little rings on your wrist.