Apple Fitness+, a subscription streaming service that offers a wide variety of exercise workouts, was launched in January 2021 after much anticipation. Apple Fitness+ integrates with your Apple Watch Series 3 or later, to automatically start and track your Fitness+ workouts.
In large type at the top of the Apple Fitness+ website, it says, “A new fitness experience for everyone, powered by Apple Watch. World-class workouts by the world’s best trainers. New workouts added every week.” But, in my opinion, it may not be for everyone.
For this article I used an Apple Watch Series 6 and watchOS 7.3. I also used an iPhone X with iOS 14.4. I work out on a regular basis usually doing strength training including weights, and core. I completed many Fitness+ workouts in the Strength, Core, HIIT (high-intensity interval training), Yoga, and Mindful Cooldown categories. I did all the beginner classes and many of the advanced.
The workouts in Apple Fitness+ are videos. People who are low vision might be able to see what is on the screen. Unfortunately, none of the workouts are audio only. Be aware that there are many visual references during many workouts. Not all moves are clearly explained. There are usually additional trainers in the background who do modified versions of the same exercise, but the modifications are frequently not described. While the workout is playing, you do not have the ability to rewind to repeat what was said.
Apple Fitness+ will make trainer and workout recommendations for you. If you subscribe to Apple Music, playlists that the trainer uses for workouts can be downloaded.
Apple Fitness+ offers ten types of workout. They are:
- Treadmill Walk
- Treadmill Run
- Mindful Cooldown
Another Fitness+ feature is Time to Walk. According to Apple, “Episodes feature some of the world’s most interesting people who share inspiring stories, photos and music as you join them on a walk.” Walks are between 25 and 40 minutes and are meant to be done outside, with your Apple watch and Bluetooth headphones.
Apple Fitness+ requires Apple Watch Series 3 or later with watchOS 7.2 or later. The app is only available on the iPhone 6s or later with iOS 14.3 or later, iPad with iPadOS 14.3 or later, or Apple TV with tvOS 14.3 or later.
If you purchase an Apple Watch, you get three months of Fitness+ free. If you already have a supported Apple Watch Series 3 or later, you can get a free one-month trial. Information about these options can be found on the Apple Fitness + homepage. If you decide to subscribe, Apple Fitness+ is $9.99 per month or $79.99 for one year.
If you are using an iPhone, Fitness+ will become the middle tab of the Fitness app once you subscribe or start your free trial. If you use an iPad, Fitness+ needs to be downloaded from the App Store. It is also available for Apple TV. It is not available for the Mac.
What’s on the Screen
The screens in Fitness+ contain a lot of information, but everything is uncluttered and easy to navigate.
When the Home screen loads, the first option is Account Settings. Information in this section includes your name, email address associated with your Apple ID, and options to redeem a gift card or send one by email.
Flicking right brings you to the list of workouts. In order they are: HIIT, Yoga, Core, Strength, Treadmill, Cycling, Rowing, Dance, and Mindful Cooldown. Treadmill Run and Walk are not listed separately, but when a treadmill workout is selected, there will be options for Run and Walk.
Next are the Time to Walk audio workouts. From here, you can start using headings navigation to discover recommendations and new workouts. Under some headings is a Show All option. Activating it brings up a list of all choices in the category.
The first heading is More of What You Do. Below this heading are recommendations based on previous workouts. The next heading is Try Something New. In this section, Apple Fitness+ suggested different trainers for me to try. For example, I completed many core workouts and different core trainers were suggested.
The next heading is New This Week. Below the heading is a Show All button. Even without activating the button there was an extensive list. Since February is Black History Month, there was a list of workouts “inspired by black excellence.”
The next heading is called For Beginners. Just below the heading is a button labeled “Workouts to get started, 7 episodes.” There are 2 strength workouts, 2 HIIT workouts, 2 yoga workouts, and 1 core workout. For the strength, HIIT, and yoga workouts, the first workout is a brief introduction and the second is a longer workout.
Next is a different trainer’s weekly picks followed by headings for Popular and Trainers. The final category is Simple and Quick.
If you are new to exercise or have not worked out recently, this is a good place to start. The trainers are very welcoming. Unfortunately, parts of some videos are not described at all or they are not described clearly enough if you cannot see the screen. There are trainers doing modifications of the movements, but what they are doing isn’t clearly described most of the time.
Access the beginner workouts by using headings navigation to get to the For Beginners heading. Flick right and VoiceOver says, “Workouts to Get Started, 7 Episodes.” Select this option.
There is a brief film to watch on the next screen. It features trainers who do beginner workouts. They are very enthusiastic and supportive. Next is the list of workouts. Each one contains the title, trainer, the workout number, an option to add this to your workouts, length of the workout, and music played. Once a workout is completed, it will be at the bottom of the workout’s listing.
Choosing More Advanced Workouts
Apple music has many workouts and many ways to make a selection. You can choose a workout from one of the lists on the home screen. You could also select one of the categories at the top of the screen and then narrow your choice. Workouts can be sorted by type, trainer, activity, length, and music.
Once a category is chosen, the next screen will have two different ways to select a workout: Filter and Sort. In addition, there will be a list of workout suggestions from the category. If Filter is chosen, the new screen will load with three different subcategories: Trainer, Time, and Music. For any trainer, time length, and music not available in the Core category, VoiceOver will say “Dimmed” next to the option. Once selections are made, select the Done button near the top of the screen.
With the Sort option, you can sort by either recently added workouts, trainer, time length or music. Only workouts that meet your search criteria are displayed.
The Workout Screens
No matter how you choose a workout, the first screen will have a More button with options including Share and Save Workout. Next is the name of the workout and the trainer’s name. Selecting the name brings up a short biography and a list of other workouts done by the trainer. Next is a Let’s Go button and a Preview button. The Preview button plays a short segment of the class. Next is a brief description of the class. Any equipment needed will be mentioned in this section but moves are not mentioned. There is no estimate of calories burned. At the end is a list of songs played.
Start Your Workout
When you are ready to begin, select the Let’s Go button. Your Apple Watch will open the Workout app and you can press Play.
The screen will have the following information: elapsed time, heart rate, kilocalories used, description of activity rings, a Done button, volume, a Play button, media selection, controls, time elapsed, and time remaining. Media selection is for subtitles, closed captioning, and other languages. Controls lets you select which metrics you want on the screen. Verbal step-by-step instructions are not given for each exercise. There is no list of which exercises will be done.
As you do your workout, VoiceOver will give some feedback, depending on what you are doing. For example, if you do an exercise for thirty seconds, VoiceOver may say when your timer is done. It told me when I closed my activity ring.
Once the workout is over, activate the Done button on your device and on your Apple Watch.
Because of Apple’s commitment to accessibility, I was eager to try Apple Fitness+. I was disappointed that Apple Fitness+ didn’t come with better descriptions of exercises during a workout. Ideally, I would prefer a separate description track playing along with the workout, explaining exercises when necessary. Audio ducking would let a blind user hear the exercise description and still follow along while the trainer spoke. Maybe they could have a companion text or audio file to each workout, describing how to do each exercise.
Despite these accessibility issues, Apple Fitness+ may be right for you. Apple has great music and the instructors are very welcoming. If you have access to a treadmill, cycle, or rower, check out those workouts.
This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.
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