Apple’s Fitness+ wants to upgrade your workout – but you’ll need a Watch – Sydney Morning Herald

The Apple Watch has been my go-to fitness tracker for several years. I love it, and I get a lot of value from it during my workouts — but it’s never felt essential. It’s nice, but you don’t need one to get fit.

So can Apple’s new fitness offering make the Watch essential?

 HIIT, dance, strength training and yoga are some of the workouts available on the Fitness+ service.

HIIT, dance, strength training and yoga are some of the workouts available on the Fitness+ service.

The tech giant last week announced its Series 6 Watch, and an updated operating system that builds in sleep tracking and handwashing detection (features that are also available on both the Fitbit Sense and Samsung Galaxy smartwatches). But its major draw is Fitness+: on-demand workout videos on your iPhone or Apple TV, updated weekly and covering 10 types of exercise — including HIIT cardio, dance and strength.

Fitness+ won’t launch till later this year, but the tech giant showed journalists a sneak peek of the workouts and how they integrate with Apple Watch. As a fitness instructor, my first impression was: wow. I can’t wait to try it. I’m especially keen to complement my own workout routine with yoga (something I desperately need more of, but rarely get time), and to sample something new in a rowing or treadmill workout.


Fitness+ is perfectly timed for the age of lockdowns, but was in development well before the pandemic. It’s part of a trend of at-home workouts that marry fitness hardware and software — a trend that’s growing, and lucrative. Look to Peloton, the spin class that has a cult-like following in the States and a $20 billion-plus valuation; or Lululemon’s $500 million acquisition of exercise gizmo Mirror.

Apple is no doubt hoping to print (even more) money with Fitness+, but chief operating officer Jeff Williams insisted its real goal is increasing activity.

“If we can do that, everyone wins,” he said. “We know working out for most people can be difficult, and many people need motivation, structure and coaching to get started and stick with it.”

Fitness+ is in great hands. Apple’s fitness boss is Jay Blahnik, who genuinely seems to get exercise — why some people love it, why some people hate it, and how to curate a product that caters to both.

“We think customers will love the variety of workout types and the diversity of trainers,” Blahnik predicted.

He’s right to focus on trainers — people really do fall in love with their coaches, and do basically anything they say. (You’d only listen to someone who told you to do 100 burpees if you truly trusted them, right?) To get the instructors right for Fitness+, Apple spent some time choosing a team who don’t just have expertise, but a range of life stories. Cleverly, they’ll also cameo in each other’s workouts, so you might see your favourite strength coach trying yoga.

Fitness+ trainers include professional athletes, yogis, martial artists, health coaches, gymnasts and Ironman champions.

Fitness+ trainers include professional athletes, yogis, martial artists, health coaches, gymnasts and Ironman champions.

“The Fitness+ trainer team are really great individually, but even more magical together,” Blahnik said.

The trainers will also have a hand in crafting each workout’s music, which Blahnik noted is a “huge motivator” in fitness. (The playlists will, of course, be available via Apple Music.)

Fitness+ is probably the closest digital imitation of a fitness club so far. But will it work? 2020 has taught us video calls are no substitute for face-to-face conversations, and I’m not convinced virtual workouts will ever match the magic of panting alongside other people — especially as there don’t seem to be live Fitness+ events planned.

Apple's Fitness+ is expected to launch in late 2020.

Apple’s Fitness+ is expected to launch in late 2020.

Nevertheless, Fitness+ competitors should be very afraid of such a highly polished product. Apple devotees will no doubt love it, for the same reasons they already love Apple: thoughtfully made content, seamlessly delivered across top-of-the-line devices. Which is exactly why Apple naysayers will hate Fitness+: it locks customers even deeper into Apple’s walled garden, which you can only access if you can afford the expensive hardware.


And that’s the biggest catch with Fitness+: you can’t use it without an Apple Watch (which will set you back at least $299) and paying a monthly subscription fee ($14.99/month or $119.99/year).

Given the breadth of Fitness+, that fee is great value… if you make use of it, and it doesn’t end up gathering dust like your gym card.

Which hints at a fundamental problem of exercise, one even the world’s biggest tech company can’t solve. No fitness tracker — even one supported by Apple’s best trainers and workouts and digital nudges— can make you exercise. That motivation can only come from you.

Sam Downing is a qualified personal trainer, fitness instructor and nutrition coach.

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