Apple Fitness+ couldn’t have arrived at a better time. The fitness subscription service launched in late December, with a view to capturing the new year, new me crowd. With the UK slammed back into lockdown, shutting down gyms in the process too, it’s back to deciding whether to get the running shoes out again or stay inside and get sweaty in your living room.
If you own an iPhone, iPad or Apple TV and have an Apple Watch too, you have everything you need to use Fitness+. For £9.99 a month or £79.99 a year, Apple offers workouts that you can do with or without any extra equipment.
Apple isn’t the first to let you work out at home without needing to step inside of a gym, though. So does the arrival of Fitness+ spell the end of a whole host of rival workout apps? We’ve been balancing out the festive indulgence and kicking off the New Year right by putting Fitness+ through its paces and seeing how it matches up to the current competition. To cut straight to the verdict, Apple Fitness+ is unsurprisingly not the most fully rounded home workout subscription in its first month but, though there’s plenty of obvious places to expand, it’s a promising start.
Like Fitness+, all of these services offer free trials right now letting you get a taste of what they’re made of.
App: iPhone, iPad and Apple TV | Compatible devices: Apple Watch
The overriding feeling of heading into Fitness+ is that this is a place that’s only going to get bigger and better. What’s there already, though, makes a good first impression.
Right now, Apple is offering on-demand workouts only, but there’s clearly scope here to add live classes too, which have become part of the appeal around other big workout apps; we’ll get to those. Fitness+ covers workout app staples like HIIT, core and yoga. You’re also getting dance classes and sessions built around gym equipment you might already own.
So there’s workouts made for jumping on a treadmill, indoor bike and, somewhat uniquely, rowing machines too. They don’t have to be the connected kind either. The Apple Watch is key to bringing the app and equipment together and it does so in a very pleasing way.
That Watch integration means you get to benefit from one of the most reliable heart rate monitors you can put on your wrist. Especially if you opt for the newer Watch Series 6 or the Watch SE. Along with displaying heart rate stats, you can also see how much you’re eating into your Activity Rings for the day and the integration of Apple Music means you’ll always know what tracks are giving you that extra boost.
The Fitness+ classes are designed to cater for all abilities and Apple has clearly put the work in to find some of the best instructors that push you hard, but also don’t make it feel like a daunting place to exercise. A nice touch is that the main trainers are joined by others in the classes who show you alternative ways to perform more challenging exercises. There’s definitely a bigger emphasis on short, sharp workouts right now that make it well suited to anyone for whom time is a premium.
Unsurprisingly, it’s a service only accessible through Apple devices, and that’s highly unlikely to change. Live classes seem like the next logical step for the service, along with a serious injection of longer workouts. We’d also like to see more options tailored to other activities whether that’s running, swimming or cycling. The Apple Watch brings everything together nicely, but adding some Apple endorsed third party sensors into the picture too, in order to add even more metrics, might just give Fitness+ the edge in the near future.
Price: £9.99 a month, £79.99 a year, £45 every 3 months | Sign up to Fitness+ on Apple
App: iOS, Android, Amazon Fire and Sky Q | Compatible devices: Apple Watch, Fitbit, MyZone, Samsung Galaxy Watch
Fiit feels like the home workout app to beat as things stand. London-based startup Fiit launched its service designed to bring boutique fitness classes into your home in 2018. It’s a really slick operator, from the app to the presentation of the workouts that will work you hard – plus it’s on Sky Q so you can work out in front of the TV. Fiit also does live classes, which you don’t get on Fitness+ right now. If Apple’s service appears to something that caters well to beginners, Fiit feels a bit more grown up.
You can take on challenges, enrol in training programs and find a workout based on aspects like difficulty and music. The variety of workouts on offer here is superb too. There’s sessions designed for runners, grabbing equipment like kettlebells and even ones that you can perform quietly.
If you like your trainers to be on the right side of motivating and focusing more on explaining exercises, that’s what you get here. It says a lot when you notice that some of Fiit’s trainers have cropped up on Apple’s service as well.
The other big pull of Fiit is the wealth of devices it works with to track your own performance. As well as working with its own heart rate monitor Device Lite (£25) chest strap, it also works with devices like the Apple Watch, allowing you to view heart rate data and the amount of heart rate-based Fiit points you amass for each session.
Fiit is available across the key platforms too and it’s the only one right now that’s available on Sky Q, making it easier to work out in front of a big screen and see live stats from a connected wearable.
Fiit costs more on a monthly basis than Fitness+, but it does offer its service on a wider range of platforms and supports both live classes and a greater level of devices. Overall, it’s a really polished service that’s a pleasure to jump back into.
Price: £20 a month, £120 a year, £45 every 3 months | Sign up to Fiit
App: iPhone, iPad, Android, Fire TV, web, Roku TV | Compatible devices: Apple Watch
Peloton isn’t just about jumping on its bike or treadmill and getting barked at by trainers. You can forego spending a lot of money on its connected gear and just sign up to its app to get access to on-demand and live classes with or without equipment.
The Peloton service itself is an app that can be accessed on a host of platforms and that even includes a useful web app as well as a dedicated app for Amazon Fire TV. It takes a similar approach to its rivals, giving you the freedom to simply pick a workout to try out, join challenges like taking a class every day for a month or entering programs to strengthen that core. There’s a mindfulness play here too with classes dedicated to meditation and, of course, yoga.
The classes are, on the whole, as challenging as you want them to be. Even the shorter ten minute classes will work you hard in that limited time. In those classes, instructors and trainers can be a bit on the overenthusiastic side so if you respond to that approach, then you’ll feel at home here.
If you’ve got an Apple Watch, Peloton does have a presence on the smartwatch too, letting you view heart rate data and see whether you’ve got a rest period or another punishing set to come in your session. It offers metrics for indoor running workouts too.
As a package, there’s a lot to like about Peloton outside of paying up for its bike and Peloton Tread treadmill. You will miss out on those extra cycling metrics and live leaderboards, but it’s worth noting that a lot of what’s great about the Peloton service is available for less than the membership price of owning its hardware. It’s one that works on a variety of devices and if you appreciate that flexibility of access, there’s a lot to like here.
Price: £12.99 a month | Sign up to Peloton
App: iOS and Android | Compatible devices: Apple Watch
Aaptiv, formerly known as Skyfit, is an audio fitness app that has been live for over five years. It initially focused on offering fitness classes using audio to talk users through their workouts. Aaptiv still puts a strong emphasis on using audio to coach you in its app, but has also introduced a few features that make for quite a unique training experience. You’ll have to kick things off by establishing your goals, telling Aaptiv about the equipment you have access to and then it’ll create a fitness plan designed to offer workout options that are better tailored to you.
There’s workouts to choose from a curated list and even family-friendly ones that might have greater appeal for anyone playing teacher in lockdown. You can join multi-week team challenges if you could do with a more competitive motivational boost and Aaptiv also offers dedicated programs for reducing stress and improving sleep quality.
With audio instructions playing a major role here, Aaptiv shows you how to carry out the workouts, but uses the trainer’s voice to really guide you on how to perform those exercises. It’s an approach that is more effective for some workouts more than others, but if you respond to being told what to do as opposed to be shown what to do, then you might find Aaptiv works for you.
There’s Apple Watch support here too and it’s a nice experience overall too. You can see a colour-coded gauge of your live heart rate zones along with data on calorie burn. Like Apple’s Fitness+ you can also glance at current track info from the music playing during workouts.
Aaptiv’s approach won’t be everyone, especially if you’re hoping for something that entirely replicates what you’d get in a normal gym class. You don’t stand and stare at a trainer here. If you respond more by being instructed what to do and enjoy an eclectic collection of music to work out too, then Aaptiv is well worth considering.
Price: £14.49 a month, £92.99 a year | Sign up to Aaptiv
App: Android and iOS | Compatible devices: Apple Watch and Garmin watches
Wondercise is a fitness tech startup built by the same company behind Wonder Core, the Taiwan-based outfit that made its name building fitness equipment, which is now sold globally. Right now Wondercise is one of the most affordable home workout options, whether you pay monthly or annually and it also takes the wearable integration up a notch too.
Using the motion sensors built into its own fitness band, the Apple Watch and select Garmin watches, it will track your movement and posture during live workouts. Wondercise then compares that data to your trainer to see how well you match, generating a live and overall score to let you know how well you’re doing.
In the app, it’s all about on demand workouts only. You can explore a range of different classes from fat-blasting HIIT sessions to Latin dance. There’s classes recommended to you based on your personal fitness goals or you can jump into pre-built plans instead.
Classes here will make you sweat and there’s a good difficulty range if you need to step up to something more challenging or dial things back to a more manageable cadence. You can mirror videos from your phone or tablet to the TV, given you have the right support on your TV to do it and it’s much nicer to see live stats on a bigger screen. Trainers stick to the exercise instructions and keep the motivational chat largely to a minimum.
Tracking your movement isn’t integral to every workout, but it does add a nice dimension to the ones it does work with. We are a little sceptical over how reliable that tracking is and this aspect feels like it needs some finessing for some full body workouts. Wondercise’s own band isn’t the greatest quality either, so using your own device is definitely the smartest option here.
There’s certainly some nice elements to Wondercise’s approach, though, and at its core, it does the home workout app basics well enough. Its unique tracking support will have to improve to help it better stand out from the crowd but the price alone makes it interesting.
App: Android, iOS, Windows 10 and Web | Compatible devices: Fitbit smartwatches
It might have Fitbit right there in the name, but you don’t actually need to own one of its fitness trackers or smartwatches to access the workout app that lives inside of its Premium subscription service.
It’s called Fitbit Coach and what you’ll find there are trainer-led workouts which you can filter by duration, difficulty or by honing in on particular muscle groups. You’ll find videos to crush that core or strengthen that lower body. In addition to workouts, there’s a small collection of programs that can last from a week to six weeks if simply picking out workouts ad hoc isn’t getting results for you.
Before each workout, you can see a clear breakdown of what exercises lie in store for you and you can even pick a station from Fitbit’s Radio service to provide the soundtrack for your session. The classes, though, feel a little less like classes and more a demonstration of exercises. They don’t quite have the same feel of something like Apple Fitness+ or Fiit.
If you do own one of Fitbit’s smartwatches, that will invariably make your Coach workout experience a more personalised one. Along with letting you use its sensors to track metrics during workouts, it will also use that logged exercise data to recommend workouts you should tackle in the future.
The Fitbit Coach element of Premium feels a little less like jumping into a gym class and a bit more ‘here’s some workouts to do’. It definitely pays if you have a Fitbit smartwatch as Coach is just a component of the overall Premium service. It will also give you that more personalised approach to training based on what else you track with your Fitbit device.
Price: £7.99 a month, £79.99 year for Fitbit Premium | Sign up to Fitbit Premium
More great stories from WIRED
🐧 The mystery of the world’s loneliest penguins
🎲 Forget Monopoly. These are the best board games for adults and families
💻 Take control and stop yourself getting hacked in 2021
Need Your Help Today. Your $1 can change life.