Review: Apple Fitness Plus is a great service for Apple device owners keen to exercise

Apple Fitness Plus review.
Photo credit: Apple

Fitter not fatter was the aim for 2020 but a pregnancy and two lockdowns got in the way.

So I've been amping to review Apple's new Fitness Plus service, which works with the Apple Watch. 

But it didn't quite go to plan.

"No time left to exercise," I wailed earlier this week, louder than the baby.

The review units to test out the service ahead of launch had only just arrived after going AWOL in the post. I'd planned a week's worth of exercise and now had one day left before my deadline was up.

"Work, birthday parties, school concerts, Christmas shopping..." I paused and my eldest child promptly vomited. 

"And a sick child! What am I to do?"

"Harden up," said my husband, rather unkindly. He'd already scrolled through the 10 exercise categories offered in Fitness Plus (stylised by Apple as Fitness+) and was reading them out. 

High-Intensity Interval Training, yoga, dance, core, cycling, treadmill, rowing, strength and something called 'mindful cooldown'. Was he being sarcastic with that last one? Apparently not. 

"It says here, you can do workouts ranging from 10 minutes to 45. So if you get a move on you can try out heaps in the next hour or two."

I looked at my watch and the challenge was rather grumpily accepted.

To get Fitness Plus, you need an Apple Watch, and the prerecorded exercise classes are available on iPhones, iPads and Apple TV. The service doesn't work without the watch as it syncs up to the workouts beaming the relevant metrics on screen. 

You'll also need to update your Apple devices to the latest software for each. Fitness Plus can then be found in the new tab in the Fitness app on the iPhone and automatically on Apple TV but the Fitness App needs to be downloaded from the App store for the iPad.

As for using Fitness Plus, it looks fabulous and is easy to navigate. The videos are high quality, the studio setting is gorgeous and the 21 trainers are super cool yet likeable.

There are dozens of workouts for all abilities and interests - for beginners, quick workouts, popular ones and so on. The more classes you do, the more recommendations are made.

More classes are added every Monday. I chose to do a cycling class, strength training, dance, HIIT, core and bit of yoga.

In addition to the main exercises being demonstrated, there are recommended changes shown that you might like to make if you're not quite as in shape, or alternatively need a bit of a harder workout. Trainers from the different disciplines appear in each other's videos to help out and each workout also includes a little bit of sign language.

Within each exercise category, you can filter by trainer, time and music. You can also preview details about the workout you choose - for example what equipment you'll need, what some of the exercises will look like and what music will be playing.

If you have an Apple Music subscription you can also save the music you like, but you don't need to be a subscriber to hear the tunes. 

I began with a cycling session.

Apple Fitness+ review.
Photo credit: Apple

"You are fighting for air," shouted trainer Emily gleefully in her preview video, fist pumping and cycling as if her life depended on it.

Slightly frightened at the prospect, I headed for Tyrell. "Empty the tank," he ordered ecstatically over hip-hop beats. Alrighty.

What's good about the cycle classes is you're encouraged to work hard without setting a specific level of resistance.

Next up was HIIT. "Are you with me?" shouted Kim in a reassuringly familiar British accent. I certainly was. I'm going back so I can get a body like hers.

The trainers offer sensible advice. "Speed up as long as you can do it safely," said strength trainer Gregg, lifting a dumbbell as if it was made of feathers.

The dance workouts are fun but surprisingly complicated to replicate. LaShawn got me movin' but Jhon got me groovin' with his Latin beats. Both had my daughter laughing loudly at my lack of coordination.

The Apple Watch integration added an extra level of interest to the workouts, helping keep me engaged as I watched my heart rate and time elapse and adding real incentive to push myself and close my rings, which I've been known to get rather obsessed with.

It was also interesting to try out the burn feature, which let me see how I was doing against others around the world that had done the workout.

Apple always says it's not interested in being the first at something, it wants to be the best and with Fitness Plus the effort is obvious. 

There are plenty of online exercise platforms out there (Peloton's offering is its biggest rival), but Apple's huge array of categories, workouts, instructors and music choices - all presented in a super slick package - make it a great fitness solution for almost anyone wanting to exercise. It's fun, unintimidating and fairly well priced.

Of course, there are a few downsides. There are no live classes, no real-time feedback from instructors and no real ability to compete against friends (although the burn bar does sort of tell you where you stand against everyone else who's taken a class).

Apple Fitness Plus in New Zealand.
Photo credit: Apple

It doesn't look like there are any digital badges and awards dedicated to Fitness Plus either, which seems a shame as that's a fun part of the Fitness app. 

The need for an Apple Watch to actually use the service could also be a turn off for some. But with it all at my fingertips in the comfort of my home, hotel or anywhere else I happen to be (the workouts can be downloaded for when there's no Wi-Fi connection), I can see myself quickly becoming hooked. 

Fitness Plus will be available as a subscription service for NZ$16.99 a month or NZ$139.99 a year. It can be shared by up to six family members for the same price.

Anyone who bought an Apple Watch Series 3 or later this year will get a three month free trial.

Now please excuse me - Betina is beckoning. Time to burn some baby belly.

Emma was supplied an Apple Fitness Plus subscription and equipment for this review.