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Apple Fitness+ makes Apple TV an even better buy

Apple TV isn’t the least expensive streaming platform. But it is the best. And that’s before you take a single swig of the Cupertino Kool-Aid. The hardware remains as powerful as anything else out there. And what’s more is that the hardware enables years and years of software support.

You can argue that Apple TV actually is overkill when it comes to just streaming video. And you’d be right. After all, competing platforms all have options around $50 (or less!) that essentially do the same thing. They’ll show you shows, at 4K resolution and with the usual bells and whistles. Streaming video isn’t that hard anymore. And it doesn’t have to be that expensive.

But so long as we’re spending a chunk of money — which often enough is something folks in the Apple ecosystem are ready to do, if not downright eager to virtue signal because of the cost — let’s go all-in. If you also have an Apple Watch, you can get even more out of your Apple TV.

You just need to be willing to sweat a little. And spend some more money.

A good deal

In addition to being able to use any and all of the streaming apps available, Apple TV also is home to all kinds of other Apple stuff. And over the past year or so, my wife and I have started to take advantage of Apple Fitness+, which launched at the end of 2020. The $10-a-month subscription covers access to nearly a dozen fitness categories. The more you explore — and the more you exercise — the further you’ll stretch that $10 a month. (Better yet is if you pay annually, and then it’ll only cost $80 a year.) And because that fee covers anyone in your Apple Family Sharing plan, it can go that much further.

In other words, that’s not a bad deal at all, so long as someone’s using it.

Apple Fitness+ on Apple TV.
Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

And there’s a lot from which to chose. The categories include:

  • Meditation
  • High-intensity interval training
  • Yoga
  • Core
  • Strength
  • Pilates
  • Dance
  • Cycling
  • Treadmill
  • Rowing
  • Mindful cooldown

None of this is a replacement for going to the gym. I still do that four or five times a week before the sun comes up. (If that’s bragging, so be it. Or if it’s not impressive in the slightest, you’re also right.) It’s not the same as being in a group fitness class, with a trainer who can yell at you when you need a little more encouragement (or if they just know that you like to get yelled at because it’s fun). But it’s a great way to augment whatever you’re already doing, or if you’re just looking to get going. It’s not going to kick your butt. But it’ll get it moving more.

Apple Fitness+ is an app on Apple TV. It’s preloaded, which is great if you’re Apple and bloatware if you’re not. But it’s not like it’s really in the way or anything. Once your subscription is set up, it’s a breeze to get a workout going.

The Apple Watch tie-in

I’ve been wearing smartwatches since, well, forever. I had a Pebble back in the day. I was there when Google launched the first Android watches. And while I’m not a big fan of using other devices when I’m watching TV — that “second screen” thing is a distraction, and not the good kind — it’s sort of amazing how well the Apple Watch works with Apple TV and Apple Fitness+. Or, maybe it’d be amazing if it were anyone other than Apple doing it.

Open the Fitness app on Apple TV and it’ll ask to connect with your watch. (And, yes, if there are multiple watches at home at the time, you can choose the right one.) While you’re exercising along with the trainers on the screen, you’ll see real-time stats that come from (or are mirrored on) your watch. That includes things like heart rate and calories burned, as well as how long you’ve been working out.

In typical Apple fashion, it’s clever, simple — and it just works. I’ve never had the connection drop, or refuse to sync in the first place.

Note that Apple Watch is required for Apple Fitness+. (Referring to it without the article “the” is optional.) That’s an added expense, sure — and one that actually costs more than Apple TV alone. (And you don’t actually need Apple TV for Apple Fitness+ — it works fine on an iPhone or iPad, too.) But it’s a really cool tie-in and one that expands the full experience.

A dog watching a woman do yoga on Apple Fitness+.
Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

It’s about what’s on the screen

The watch, really, is secondary. Apple Fitness+ is all about what’s on the screen. If that’s the iPhone or iPad, fine. But putting things up on a TV — the bigger the better, of course — really starts to give you more of the traditional fitness class vibe.

No, it’s not the same as sweating in a room with a dozen or so of your closest friends. You can’t yell at the trainer. (OK, you can, but they’re great and they can’t hear you anyway.) You’ll maybe get a little disturbed by the impeccable Nike clothing and shoes that obviously weren’t used before that day’s recording.

But there’s fresh content across all the categories every week. And the more you explore, the more you’ll get out of both Apple Fitness+, and your Apple TV.

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Phil Nickinson
Section Editor, Audio/Video
Phil spent the 2000s making newspapers with the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, the 2010s with Android Central and then the…
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