That’s something you won’t find on services from Fitbit and Samsung, which also offer workout content alongside their wearables. Similar to Fitness +, Fitbit Premium costs $10 a month and includes a Coach program with simple exercise videos and guides on nutrition, sleep and meditation. Samsung Health is free, and you can play its workouts on Samsung TVs too, but most of the content is from third parties. Perhaps Apple’s stiffest competition is Peloton, but it’s more expensive at $13 a month. Plus, to get similar onscreen metrics, you’d have to shell out north of $2,000 for one of the company’s treadmills or bikes — at which point the monthly fee skyrockets to $40. (The cheaper subscription is for people who don’t own the company’s exercise machines.)
Apple easily outshines the competition on Watch integration, but that alone doesn’t make a fitness service. The quality of the workouts themselves is a huge factor to consider. Fitness+ offers a decent range of activities, including yoga, dance, core exercises, strength training, high-intensity intervals, treadmill runs, rowing and indoor cycling, for those who have access to the appropriate machines. There’s also an intro section for beginners to get them started on basics like proper form or how to correctly set up your rowing machine. The rest of the videos run between five and 45 minutes, and while you can search by trainer, music, duration and activity, you can’t filter by difficulty level.
I was surprised when I found myself picking a video based on the type of music, even in non-dance workouts. I chose a core session with no preference for a trainer, and based my decision entirely on the fact that it would play upbeat anthems. When you find a workout you like, you can save it on your iPhone, but this option wasn’t available on Apple TV.
Frankly, all the workouts on Fitness+ seem to cater to newbies. Apple says on its website that the service “is created for everyone from beginners to experts,” and that all the videos offer modifications for all levels. While I appreciate that in theory, in practice none of the yoga videos were challenging enough. I tried two 45-minute videos and a few shorter options, and found myself missing the tougher poses and holds from my regular classes.
I also found the dance classes fairly easy, though they did get my heart rate up. The workouts I found most challenging were HIIT and core. Yoga is often perceived as being low-intensity and almost relaxing, but that’s not really the case. That said, the selection on Fitness+ only perpetuates this myth.
Aside from that, I don’t have many complaints about the workouts themselves. Every trainer I encountered was very likable. The coaches also appear in each other’s videos backing up the lead, posing as modification examples. These cameos are fun — I liked seeing my favorite dance coach LaShawn in a yoga workout, for example. I also thought it was interesting to see an expert in one categories appear in videos where they might be more of a novice.
Another thing the coaches did was use American Sign Language (ASL) to welcome users who might be deaf or hard of hearing. At the end of many of the workouts I tried, trainers signed “thank you,” for example. It’s a nice touch, though I think more could still be done. In some workouts, like yoga, you may lose sight of the screen in poses like downward dog or child’s pose. These situations make it difficult for the hearing-impaired to know when to move on or get up again. Something as simple as a haptic cue on the Watch could make Fitness+ much more accessible.
Inclusion is important, and with Fitness+ Apple does its best to welcome those new to working out to the world of home exercise. But it could do better at including intermediate and advanced users too. Over time, novice users will improve and may quickly find Fitness+ no longer challenging enough. This is a simple enough issue to address, at least — Apple can easily add more videos of greater difficulty over time. The good news is that with its excellent tech, Fitness+ has laid the groundwork for a satisfying service that can grow with its users.
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