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Apple Fitness Plus vs. Peloton: Which exercise streaming service is better?

Here's how Apple's streaming workout service stacks up against its closest rival.

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As gyms and fitness studios closed down and forced us to workout at home over the past year, fitness streaming services have seen a surge of new users looking to break a sweat from the safety of their living room. While Peloton carved an early lead in the space with its Bike and Tread machines paired with a subscription, Apple broke into the market in December with its own Apple Fitness Plus streaming service, which is tied to the Apple Watch

Fitness Plus is a monthly service that gives you unlimited access to workout classes spanning the most popular genres, from high-intensity interval training and yoga to rowing and cycling. It connects to your Apple Watch to record your heart rate, pace and calories burned during your class, and shows you those metrics in real time on whatever screen you use to follow the workout.

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The new service puts Apple in direct competition with many other workout streaming services, such as Peloton, Daily Burn and Glo, which provide a variety of live and on-demand video fitness classes. While none of those connect directly to an Apple Watch to show you real-time stats on the screen, many will connect to a heart-rate monitor to show your heart rate during your workout.

Given its popularity, Peloton's fitness streaming service is perhaps Fitness Plus's biggest competitor. Peloton tweeted the day that Apple announced Fitness Plus, "Friendly competition is in our DNA. Welcome to the world of digital fitness, Apple," which depending on how you interpret it, could be snarky or genuine. Either way, Peloton seems to acknowledge that Apple is coming after at least some of its business.

So how does Apple Fitness Plus stack up against Peloton? Let's break it down. 

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First and foremost, Apple Fitness Plus is for people who have an Apple Watch and an iOS device (and optional Apple TV). Without an Apple Watch, you can explore the classes and see what the service offers, but you won't be able to participate in the workouts.

You access Fitness Plus from the Fitness app, which is already available on the iPhone and will show up automatically on the Apple TV. You can now also download the Fitness app for the iPad from the App Store. 

The main Fitness Plus dashboard is designed to help you discover classes and workout types. It's organized by categories, new workouts, beginner-friendly classes, popular classes and by trainer. As you complete workout classes, Fitness Plus will start to suggest workouts it thinks you'll like.

Select a category, like dance or high-intensity interval training, at the top of the screen and you'll see a list of every class in that genre. You can filter classes by trainer, duration of the workout and music genre to narrow down your options. At launch, there are around 10 to 20 classes for each workout type (full list below) with new ones arriving each week.

With each class, you get a snapshot of what to expect, including a music playlist, list of necessary equipment and description of the workout. You can also watch a trailer for the class so you know what you're getting yourself into.

Once you start a class, your Apple Watch syncs your heart rate and calories burned to Fitness Plus, where you can see those stats on the screen in real time. During some workouts, you'll get onscreen cues to ramp up your pace or heart rate to push yourself, plus verbal cues from the trainer to motivate you. If you close a ring during your workout, you'll see that celebratory animation on screen too.

What stood out to me in Fitness Plus is how approachable and welcoming the trainers are. Each class offers modifications for different fitness levels and the trainers do a good job of explaining movements so you don't get lost. The service is notably beginner-friendly and there's even a series of workout classes for people who are brand-new to exercising or are getting back into it after a break. 

Since the service doesn't connect with any specific workout machines, you can use the workouts at home or at the gym with whatever equipment is available. There are many classes that don't require anything more than a yoga mat.

One feature I have to call out is that if you have a Fitness Plus subscription, you can access it from any Apple TV -- whether your account is signed into it or not. Your Apple Watch is essentially the "key" that unlocks it. You can also take classes from your iPad or iPhone, and can download classes for when you don't have internet access.

Overall, Fitness Plus is intuitive, easy to use and has a solid variety of workouts. By the way, you'll need an Apple Watch Series 3 or newer and either an iPhone, iPad or Apple TV to use Fitness Plus.

Workout categories: HIIT, yoga, cycling, treadmill running, treadmill walking, dance, core, strength, rowing and mindful cooldown.

Cost: $10 per month, or $80 per year

With Apple One, you can bundle Fitness Plus with Apple Music, TV Plus, Arcade, News Plus and two terabytes of storage in iCloud for $30 per month.

Multiple users? Yes, up to six people on the same subscription.

Who should use this: If you don't want to commit to buying exercise equipment, and already have an Apple Watch, this is a great service to use. The variety of classes means anyone can find something they like.

It's also a good choice if you bought an Apple Watch to improve your health and fitness, but don't really know where to start, because Fitness Plus has plenty of videos for beginners.

Peloton

It should come as no surprise that Peloton is best for people who already have equipment at home, especially a Peloton spin bike. With the exception of most of the cardio, meditation, outdoor and stretching classes, you're going to need some equipment to participate in the classes. If you pick biking or running classes, you don't need to have Peloton equipment, though they are set up assuming you do.

One thing to note -- without Peloton equipment, the Peloton streaming service costs $13 per month. With a Peloton bike, it's $40 per month. However, special pricing for the app is available for students ($7 per month) and military personnel, teachers, health care workers and first responders (all $10 per month). 

Peloton emphasizes live classes, and every class that you can take on-demand was live at one point. You can look through the schedule each day to see what's going to be broadcast live and sign up to join them. This is great for those who are used to setting out a schedule of workouts for themselves each week. You also get access to audio-only guided running workouts that you can use on runs outdoors. 

Each workout provides a list of equipment you need, a playlist of music and tells if there's a warm-up and/or cool-down before you start. 

While working out, you can see other Peloton members who are taking the same class as you. You can also control the audio to emphasize the music or the instructor's voice, which is helpful, as I found the music to be too overpowering on the default setting.

There's a progress bar at the top of the screen that shows you where you are in the workout and what's coming up next. If you have a heart-rate monitor connected to whatever device you're using to watch a Peloton class, you can see your heart rate on the screen in real time. You can also use the Peloton Apple Watch app to track your heart rate, pace and workout duration during a workout, and save that data to the Apple Health app.

With all of the Peloton classes I tried, I found the trainers to be like those you'd find in an elite fitness studio -- peppy, high-energy and experts at what they do. In some cases, I found them intimidating, like walking into a class for the first time when everyone else has been going there for years. That's not to say that beginners can't use Peloton (they absolutely can), but the class environment might feel more welcoming for those who already work out often and typically go to fitness studio classes.

Beyond workout classes, there are a few extra features with Peloton. You can participate in challenges to motivate yourself and earn achievements. 

The Peloton app, which is your portal to the workout classes, is available for iOS, Android, Roku and Amazon streaming devices. You can also participate in classes from any web browser.

Workout categories: Treadmill running, outdoor running, HIIT, cycling, strength, yoga, walking, stretching, cardio bootcamp and meditation.

Cost: $13 per month with a free 30-day trial, or $40 per month if you own a Peloton Bike or Treadmill. Discounted monthly rates are available for students ($7), teachers, health care workers, first responders and military personnel (all $10). 

Multiple users? Yes, up to three people.

Who should use this: Peloton offers a solid fitness streaming service that's great for people who are used to a fitness studio class schedule. Since many classes require equipment, it's a good service for those who have dumbbells, yoga props, a treadmill or other fitness tools at home. 

At $13 per month, it's only a little more expensive than Fitness Plus (unless you qualify for Peloton's special pricing), but you're not required to buy a smartwatch to use it.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.