Apple Watch Series 7 with Apple Fitness+ is the perfect fitness companion
There are a lot of reasons to get a smartwatch. You might just want a timepiece that can show you notifications as they come in. Some smartwatches aim to be health monitors, such as how the Apple Watch can monitor not just your heart rate, but can detect falls or even do an ECG. You’ll probably also want your new smartwatch to be a decent fitness tracker, and that’s simply an area where the Apple Watch Series 7 excels. Our review for the Apple Watch Series 7 talked about why it is a great smartwatch, and now I want to focus a bit more on the holistic fitness experience.
For the most part, I’m going to be talking about Apple Fitness+, an almost-year-old service from Apple that costs $9.99 a month, or $29.95 a month if you get it through Apple One Premier. I personally use the latter option, as it also comes with Apple TV+, Apple Music, and 2TB of iCloud+, along with services that I really don’t use like News+ and Arcade. Add on top of it that I can share these services with my family, and the $30 price tag is well worth it.
While you can get iCloud on Windows, Music on Android, and TV+ on a range of smart TVs and set-top boxes, Fitness+ is one of few services that require deep investment in the Apple ecosystem. Not only do you need an iPhone, but you need an Apple Watch, the oldest of which can be a Series 3.
Indeed, as I’ve said before, the Apple Watch Series 7 doesn’t offer too much in the way of an upgrade for Apple’s smartwatch lineup, but it’s still the best smartwatch to buy for iPhone users by far. But before we get into Fitness+, let’s talk about basic fitness tracking features that come with every Apple Watch without any premium services. Note that almost everything here works on every Apple Watch going back generations.
Apple Watch Series 7: Basic Fitness Tracking
The 3-ring system
The Apple Watch uses a ring system to track your daily activity. There are three rings. The inside ring is your stand ring, which tracks how many hours in a day that you stand for at least a minute.
The stand ring is the easiest one to close, and it just exists to make sure that you don’t sit still in a chair all day. If you don’t stand, your Apple Watch will give you a reminder 10 minutes before the end of the hour. The default sets the stand ring to 12 hours, and I haven’t changed it in my years with the Apple Watch.
The middle ring is your exercise ring. This counts how many minutes a day you spend being active. It can be during a recorded workout, or it can just be while you’re out and about. I set mine at 45 minutes, although by default, it’s lower.
Finally, the outside ring is the move ring, and this tracks active calories burned. Again, while mine is set at 850, the default is much lower. The idea behind active calories is determining not how many calories you burn during a day, but how many calories you burn in a day while you’re active.
While you can dive into the Activity app and see how many steps you took during the day, that’s not front and center like it is on other fitness trackers. It’s not about step-tracking with Apple Watch. With your exercise ring, it’s tracking how much time you spend being active, and with the move ring, it’s tracking how hard you’re working while you’re active. Set high goals, close your rings, and it’s a pretty good day for fitness and activity.
When you’re doing some type of activity, you can track it through the Workout app. All of the common stuff is pre-loaded. If you go to take a walk outside, you pick outdoor walk. If you’re on a treadmill, indoor walk is the way to go. The same goes for a running workout. You’ll also find elliptical, cycling, stair-stepping, and more. There’s even an option for Pool Swim, although this one actually requires an Apple Watch Series 2 or newer (as I said, most of this stuff works on almost all Apple Watch models).
There’s also an option at the bottom to add workouts. That’s where you’ll find this massive, alphabetized list of other things, from Badminton to Yoga. If there’s something that you do that’s considered a fitness activity, you can track it on Apple Watch.
Yes, Apple gamifies fitness by giving you achievements, and there are lots of them. For starters, you’ll get an achievement when you close each of your rings every day when all three are closed, and there are weekly awards for those too. There are others for closing your move rings two, three, or even four times over. I’ve actually never hit that 400% mark, and honestly, if you ever do, it’s really time to increase your daily goals.
Every time you set a record in a certain workout category, you’ll get an achievement, so there’s always something to strive for there. One thing that’s fun is that Apple offers limited edition challenges. For example, on Yoga Day, which was June 21 this year, the challenge was to do a 20-minute yoga workout. I did mine in Apple Fitness+, but it’s worth remembering that Fitness+ is for guidance. You could use any tutorial for a yoga workout, and then track it through the Workout app.
As you can see, there are lots of daily awards, special edition awards, and awards for specific activities. But also, there are monthly awards. Unlike the daily ones, these change every month, and they’re unique to each user. My October 2021 challenge was to earn 1,520 exercise minutes, which works out to 49 minutes a day. From what I can tell, other Apple Watch users will have a challenge in the same metric; in other words, their October challenge will still be measured in exercise minutes. However, it will be fewer or more depending on how active you are. This month, it’s distance walked. This gamification pushes people to achieve goals that they may not really be working towards or paying attention to — it’s that small push of motivation needed to encourage you to get off the bed and get going. That limited-time achievement isn’t coming around again.
If achievements aren’t enough to motivate you, maybe sharing your activity with someone else is. You can share your activity with anyone that has an Apple Watch, and you can see each others’ ring progress. You’ll also get notifications when your friends get an award, and you’ll have the opportunity to leave a motivating message on it.
You can also set up challenges between friends. This really isn’t something I’ve gotten into. To be honest, most of my friends don’t actually buy an Apple Watch for fitness tracking. So most of my requests to share activity data just get ignored.
Apple Watch Series 7: Apple Fitness+
I’ve been watching Apple events for a long time. I know all of the key players, starting with CEO Tim Cook’s opening “Good morning” and telling me how Apple has new products to share and that they think we’re “gonna love it”. I know the regular Apple all stars all too well. From Craig Federeghi’s dad jokes to Phil Schiller’s memorable quotes about how the iPhone is “so pro” and of course, “Can’t innovate anymore, my ass.”
But at Apple’s iPhone 13 and Apple Watch Series 7 launch, I had more of a reaction to Sam Sanchez, a treadmill, strength, and core trainer on Fitness+ that was there to show the new Pilates workouts that were coming to the service. Following that was Jessica Skye to talk about guided meditations and then Bakari Williams with new workouts to get ready for snow season.
I actually surprised myself a bit when that happened. I didn’t expect to have a reaction like, “It’s Coach Sam!” But perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised. I do workouts in Apple Fitness+ almost every day, and I spend a lot of time virtually with these people. They’re the ones that motivate me to work harder. It shouldn’t be surprising that there’s some emotional connection there, like you might have to a favorite actor or athlete, and I suspect that Apple knows that; that’s why every week, one of the Fitness+ trainers stars in a short video introducing what’s new.
How Apple Fitness+ works
First of all, here’s what you need for Apple Fitness+:
- iPhone 6s or newer
- Apple Watch Series 3 or newer
Once you get set up with that, you can access Fitness+ on most of your Apple devices. Both iPad and Apple TV have Activity apps that you can use, and your Apple Watch will connect to either one. For example, if you open the Activity app on your Apple TV, you’ll be given a choice to connect to any Apple Watch in the room, and once you choose, you confirm on the watch.
Once you’re in, you can choose between a variety of workouts that keeps getting bigger. Here are the types of workouts on Apple Fitness+:
- Mindful Cooldown
Once you choose the type of exercise, there are three other things you need to decide. There’s the type of music, the length of the workout, and the trainer. All of these things can be filtered, so once you get used to the service, you can easily get to the combination you want. Here’s a warning though. Don’t go for a shorter workout assuming that it will be easier. Shorter workouts tend to be made for people that want to get more done in a short period of time, so they’re more intense.
Picking your favorite coaches
I want to be clear about something. My only mention of specific Fitness+ coaches is going to be about how I noticed them in the Apple event. There are several reasons for this.
Most importantly, you have to find the coaches that are right for you. Each different kind of workout has at least two trainers that do it. I encourage you to try them all. Just like me, you’ll find that some motivate you more than others. You’ll find that you love some, and you’ll probably find that there are even some that you can’t stand.
That’s why I don’t want to talk about my favorites. I don’t want you to pick yours based on mine. I also just have too much respect for the Fitness+ team as a whole that if I did list my favorites, I’d be too worried about leaving someone out.
So my advice is to just dive in. Find an activity you want to do, match it up with the music you want and the length you’re looking for, and just go for it.
Time to Walk
Even though Apple Fitness+ is under a year old, the Cupertino firm has been regularly adding value to the service. While the most recent addition is support for Pilates and Guided Meditation, Time to Walk was a previous newer addition.
The idea behind Time to Walk is just to have some celebrity talk about their life for 20 or 30 minutes, and then it plays a few of their favorite songs. If that sounds simple, it’s because it is. It’s not for hardcore workouts. Time to Walk is just for getting out there and taking a walk.
Now that it’s on season two, there are plenty of guests to choose from, such as Dolly Parton, Uzo Aduba, Shawn Mendes, Ibram X. Kendi, Anderson Cooper, Min Jin Lee, Wanda Sykes, Jane Fonda, Stephen Fry, and much more. They just tell a few inspirational stories from their life, and that’s it.
Time to Walk episodes usually range between 30 and 40 minutes, and starting one will automatically trigger an outdoor walking workout on your watch. They also come with pictures and such to aid the story.
Pregnancy workouts, workouts for older adults, and more
Apple Fitness+ has various programs, such as the ‘Get Ready for Snow Season’ one mentioned above. There are more though, including Meditations for Beginners and Workouts for Beginners, both of which are great starting points if you’re new. But also, you’ll find Workouts for Older Adults and Workouts for Pregnancy.
My wife is pregnant, and we’re expecting our first child next year. With the new Apple Watch Series 7, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to upgrade her Apple Watch and get her involved in Apple Fitness+. Staying active during pregnancy is important (so I’m told), and this helps.
Also, as I mentioned, I subscribe through Apple One Premier, which costs $29.95 per month. If it was just two individual plans for my wife and I, it would be $19.98, even before adding in Apple TV+, Apple Music, and 2TB of iCloud+.
One thing that I really want to get across is that you should totally explore. Sure, when you’re new at Apple Fitness+, you can do the things you’re comfortable doing, listening to your favorite music. But take advantage of the other things. Never done a yoga workout before? Well then, now is the time to give it a try. What’s a Pilate? Only one way to find out.
This is also an opportunity to expand your taste in music. You won’t even have to try and explore this aspect of it. I think it’s natural that once you get started with Apple Fitness+, you’ll find certain trainers that you like, and eventually, you’ll start trying ones with music that you wouldn’t normally listen to. I found that quite often, I get more motivated by different music in a workout than I enjoy in the car.
Mindful Cooldowns and Guided Meditations
To wrap up Apple Fitness+, we have Mindful Cooldowns and Guided Meditations. The former is considered an exercise, while the latter isn’t, meaning that you won’t close your exercise ring by doing a meditation.
Mindful Cooldowns are for when you’re done working out. For five or 10 minutes, the trainer will guide you through some stretches, and then there’s usually a brief meditation at the end.
Guided Meditation is new to Apple Fitness+, and it was the thing I was most excited about from the whole event. I’m really into meditation, and if you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend trying it out. It’s all about relaxing your mind, and that peacefulness tends to spread out into the rest of your day.
Conclusion: The Apple Watch Series 7 is the best fitness companion
A little over a week before this article was written, I got on a scale and weighed in at under 200 pounds for the first time since mid-2020 (indeed, I think we all gained a bit of weight in 2020). I can honestly say that this wouldn’t have happened if not for Apple Fitness+. Sure, I had the motivation to go to the gym and get on a treadmill, but the motivation wasn’t there for me to push myself harder than I thought I could go.
I’m a big fan of ways to keep fit that don’t necessarily require going to a gym. Over the last year and a half, we spent a lot of time stuck at home, and in a lot of places, gyms were closed. Something like Apple Fitness+ is a way to try to work out while not having to go to a gym or pay for a gym membership.
My first Apple Fitness+ workout was a 30-minute treadmill walk (you choose a walk or run at the beginning of the treadmill workout). This seemed like a fine idea. After all, I walk to all kinds of places, and I did 30 minutes on a treadmill often enough. It was so hard, and I almost gave up halfway through. My mindset was that I’m a 37-year-old ex-smoker, and my body can’t do these things anymore. Certainly, my lungs couldn’t push me through a proper cardio workout. What was I thinking?
Just as I was about to give up, it was as if the trainer knew it. I heard the words, “The decision to do a 30-minute treadmill workout, that’s a big one.” That statement motivated me to finish the workout, and I was so proud of myself. I also knew at that moment that I was hooked on Apple Fitness+.
Anyway, I don’t walk that workout anymore. I run that 30-minute treadmill workout. So if you’re an ex-smoker that thinks your lungs are too damaged to ever run a couple of miles ever again, I can definitively tell you that you are dead wrong. You might just need the right coach to give you the right motivation to push your body a little bit further.
This is what you get with an iPhone, an Apple Watch, and an Apple Fitness+ subscription. It’s worth every penny to me, especially if you can get a deal on the Apple Watch.