July 24, 2024

Cool Rabbits

Healthcare Enthusiast

Complete guide to the Fitness app on iOS

Complete guide to the Fitness app on iOS

Key Takeaways

  • The Apple Fitness app is a comprehensive tool that provides detailed information about your fitness progress, including activity history, step count, and distance traveled.
  • The app offers Trainer Tips from expert Apple Fitness trainers to help guide you on your fitness journey, along with trends that show your averages for key stats like Move, Exercise, and Stand.
  • The Sharing tab allows you to share and compare your fitness stats with friends and colleagues, and even join or start competitions to motivate and challenge one another.

Once you have one of the best Apple Watches, there are a few first things you should do with it. This includes setting it up and syncing it with your iPhone, of course, adding all your favorite apps, personalizing the screen, and more. You’ll also want to set your personal fitness goals, add friends with whom you can share stats, and get prepped to leverage everything the smartwatch has to offer.

From a fitness perspective, the Apple Watch will soon become your personal coach, motivator, tracker, and data provider. You can see all your stats in the Apple Health app and adjust settings in the Apple Watch app. But it’s the Fitness app itself that you’ll likely be accessing multiple times a day for a variety of reasons. The Fitness app works without an Apple Watch, too, paired with any of the best iPhones, and it is the home of the Apple Fitness+ subscription service as well (though everything else in the Fitness app is free). Let’s take a deeper look at what the Fitness app provides.


When you open the Apple Fitness app, the first tab you’ll see is the Summary. This section contains all your personal data, so it’s pretty expansive. Here, let’s look at each section.

Activity, History

This is where you get a breakdown of your ring’s status for the day based on calculations from a connected Apple Watch. If you don’t have an Apple Watch, you still get the Move ring and relevant notifications, calculating how many steps you take and an average of calories burned based on when you have your phone on your person as you move. There’s a colorful circular graph that shows progress towards closing each of the key Activity rings: Move (with or without Apple Watch), Exercise, and Stand (these latter two only with an Apple Watch). You can set and change these goals to your preference based on your personal fitness level and goals. (Even without an Apple Watch, you can set a personal Move goal.) My Move goal, for example, is to burn at least 450 calories per day (most people put between 400 and 500), my Exercise goal is 30 minutes per day (typically numbers are from 20-45 minutes), and my Stand goal is 12 hours per day (most people put between 8 and 12), which requires that I stand for at least one minute every hour for 12 hours daily.

Beneath these figures is your daily step count and the distance you have traveled. You can view this stat to see if you’re getting the recommended 10,000 steps per day. While most fitness trackers and smartwatches focus on this magic 10K number, it’s more of an afterthought for Apple. More important is that you burn calories with Move minutes versus just getting 10,000 steps. But in most cases, unless you’re doing really strenuous exercise, you’ll likely (but not always) surpass the 10,000 steps before you burn 400–500 calories anyway. Of course, every person is different. Men, for example, tend to burn more calories at rest than women.

Below that Activity data, you’ll see your History, which will include your latest workout. Tap Show More to see a full list broken down by month. You can also filter by workout versus mindfulness exercises or even the specific workout. This is useful if you want to see if your running progress has improved, for example. (Are you burning more calories while running for the same period of time or distance?) You can track workouts from Apple Fitness+ (more on this paid subscription service below) but also manually log workouts from other services as well using an Apple Watch. You can do this either by selecting the specific workout type you’re about to do, from HIIT to strength training, walking, and cardio, to using a compatible third-party workout app, like BeachBodyonDemand, Runkeeper, or Nike Training Club.

Next are Trainer Tips, useful tips from expert Apple Fitness trainers to help guide you on your journey. There’s a new tip provided each week, and sometimes you’ll find it useful, sometimes you won’t. For example, at the time of this writing, mine pertains to yoga, one exercise I don’t ever do. If you select Watch this Week’s Tip, it will open a short one-minute video with the trainer’s advice.

Under Trends, you’ll see your averages for all the key stats noted in the Activity section, including Move, Exercise, Stand, Distance, and more. You’ll also see your Cardio Fitness level (Vo2 Max), which advises how efficiently your body transmits oxygen as you exercise, as well as your walking and running pace (if there’s enough data to generate these). Select Show More to see more details. Tap into any of these stats to see the data plotted on a graph along with more details, like what percentage of days you close your stand rings.


What’s a fitness app without rewards? The concept of gamification is important nowadays, and Apple is on board by delivering little badges whenever you accomplish something. This isn’t just related to competitions, which we’ll discuss later. But personal achievements as well. In this section, you can view all the awards you have earned to date. My latest, for example, includes a badge for doing 50 Fitness+ kickboxing workouts, achieving a 7-day workout week, and breaking a record for the most calories burned in a functional strength training workout. Yes, you can achieve awards for just about anything.

It’s kind of fun to look through and see everything you have earned to date. If you tap Show More, you’ll also be able to see how many times you have achieved some of the more standard awards. You’ll also see awards you earned for completing various monthly challenges presented by Apple. For example, the June 2023 challenge was to do 15 walking workouts in a single month, while the April challenge was to close all three Activity rings nine times.


The third tab in the Fitness app is called Sharing. This is where you can share your stats with friends, family, and colleagues, and see their stats, too. At the top right of the screen is an icon showing two silhouettes. Tap this to invite a friend to share with you and to review the friends you currently have or invitations others have sent to you to connect. Why would you want to connect? Keeping up with others is motivating, especially if it’s a group of like-minded individuals who all have similar goals. You can compare your progress each day, and this might encourage you to work harder to close your rings or burn more calories than them. Even if everyone doesn’t have an Apple Watch, you can still compare progress toward filling your Move rings.


At the top of the Sharing tab, you’ll see details for any ongoing Competitions, which are separate from basic sharing (you can share stats without actually competing with one another). This includes the current status if you’re currently in a competition with someone or if the start date is one is coming up. It’s easy to join or start a competition with someone using Apple Watch, though it’s only possible one-to-one. This section shows how many points the other person has, how many you have, and how many days are left in the competition. The data is displayed head-to-head versus just a non-competitive line list of everyone’s daily stats in the main Sharing section of the app.


Highlights show the most recent activity from the people with whom you are sharing your fitness details and who are sharing theirs with you. It will show when someone has finished a workout, what workout they did, how many calories they burned, if someone earned an award and which award they earned, when someone closed all their rings and when, and more. Scroll to the left to cycle through all of these. You can tap on any of the items to learn more about their workout, award, or activities for the day.

Activity Rings

Below the highlights is a list of the people with whom you are sharing information and their progress through the day. This is a good way to keep the competitive spirit going since you see in real time what percentage each person has fulfilled towards their goal at any given time. You’ll note that everyone has different goals. Some of my friends, for example, have a goal of burning 400 calories a day, while others have 500. You can tweak this at any time in the Apple Watch app to adjust to your personal fitness level.

Tap into any person, and you can view their other goals as well, including how many Move and Stand minutes they aim to achieve each day. You can also see their last seven days of progress through pictorial rings that show if they closed them or what progress they’ve achieved. Tapping into any person’s profile will also allow you to start a competition with them by selecting the Compete button.

You’ll also be able to see a breakdown of their recent activities and awards they recently earned, a nice way to send congratulations or positive encouragement to keep up. If you want to hide your activity from any individual person at any time, mute notifications from them, or remove a friend, you can do this using the three dots at the top right of their profile page. To add a new friend, tap the two-person icon with the settings wheel at the top right of the main Sharing page and select Invite a Friend.

The Sharing Tab is one you’ll likely use often to see how friends are doing. I’ll visit this tab multiple times a day, especially if I’m in a competition with someone. If I’m the only one on the list who isn’t close to closing her rings, for example, it might encourage me to go for a short walk to burn some calories or do a quick stretching workout. Conversely, if I haven’t moved much on a lazy Sunday but see others are taking a break, too, I won’t feel so bad.


apple fitness plus workout feature

The middle tab in the Apple Fitness app is Fitness+, and this is the only one that comes with an associated cost. While you can access it without a Fitness+ subscription, you won’t be able to do any of the workouts without one.

A Fitness+ subscription is $9.99 a month or $79.99 annually, and it can be shared with up to five family members. You’ll usually get a trial subscription of about three months for free with the purchase of an eligible device, including an Apple Watch. If you sign up for a lot of Apple services, like Apple Music, iCloud, Apple TV+, Apple News, Apple Arcade, and more, you can benefit from getting an Apple One subscription. This bundles your favorite services for a discounted price, and they’ll all appear together on a single bill or line item on your credit card statement.

Fitness+ Workouts

Apple Fitness+ workouts are divided by workout type, which you can select from the tabs at the top. These include Meditation, Strength, HIIT, Yoga, Core, Pilates, Dance, Kickboxing, Treadmill, Cycling, Rowing, and Mindful Cooldown. Even if you want to stick to a single type of workout, the great thing is that new ones are constantly being added. I started adding Kickboxing workouts to my routine several times a week, and I have never yet had to repeat the same one. A certified trainer leads each workout, so you can also choose workouts based on your favorites.

A new feature with watchOS 10 is the option to create a Custom Workout Plan, which can combine multiple workouts or a single one. You can set the days you want to do it, if you want to receive reminders, choose your preferred trainer and even type of music, and then you can follow this plan to get the most out of Apple Fitness. You can also choose and stack multiple workouts together so they play one after another in sequence without you having to start and stop the Watch, providing a full daily or weekly routine.

What can you do with workouts?

apple fitness airplay 13

Once you choose the workout you want to do, you can simply queue it up from your phone or the app on Apple TV+, then follow along. It’s easy to mirror a workout from an iPhone to an Apple TV, so you can follow on the big screen. If you have an Apple Watch and it’s connected to the phone and the same Wi-Fi network, the workout will automatically begin tracking on the smartwatch as well. If you find stats like the time elapsed, calories burned, live heart rate, and Burn Bar distracting, you can choose to hide these as well. The Burn Bar, by the way, shows how you compare to others who have done the same workout. It accounts for weight and shows how your calorie burn compares to others through the workout. Once done, your data is added anonymously to the workout metrics to further improve the Burn Bar accuracy for everyone.

When you select a workout type, you can also tap the Filter button at the top right and select a preferred trainer, duration, genre of music, required equipment (say, if you’re traveling and don’t have dumbbells handy), and even body focus. This allows you to not only do a workout type you want to do, whether it’s strength training or yoga, but also truly personalize it to meet your specific likes, dislikes, and needs.

If you select ADD+ on the right corner of a workout, you can download it, and it will be added to your library, at which point you can access it offline. This is useful if you want to be able to do a workout from a hotel room while traveling that doesn’t have Wi-Fi. Or maybe you’re at your remote cabin or campsite and want to get in a quick kickboxing session but don’t have cellular or Wi-Fi connectivity.

If you’re doing the workout with others, you can tap the three dots in the top right corner and select SharePlay to be able to workout together. As long as you all have an Apple Fitness+ subscription and an iPhone or iPad, you can connect through FaceTime and do the workout together.

Keep in mind that, as mentioned, you no longer need an Apple Watch to use Apple Fitness+, but I really want to emphasize that you’ll get the most robust experience with one. Otherwise, you can still sign up for the required fee and do workouts from your phone, tablet, or Apple TV without tracking them via the Watch (or manually tracking the stats from another smartwatch or fitness tracker).

More of What You Do, Trainer Tips, and Collections

Scroll down, and you’ll see More of What You Do which will provide suggested workouts you might like based on what you have done to date. Naturally, this section will populate and change with the work you do in Apple Fitness+ workouts.

Below this, you’ll find a list of Trainer Tips with a short description and a link to a short video clip of them delivering the advice. You’ll see the most recent tip and can select Show All to scroll down the list and watch the ones most applicable to you. For example, at the time of this writing, my tips included how to set an intention to stay motivated, how to use your arms to run efficiently, and how to get more out of your workouts with music. So they aren’t just general workout tips but also tips about how to get the most out of exercising in general, as well as using Apple Fitness+ specifically.

If you’re looking for guidance, like if you’re starting out, you can browse the Fitness+ Collections, workouts that have been curated from the Fitness+ library to help you meet the goals you have set for yourself. There are ones like a 30-day core challenge, low-impact HIIT workouts, and travel-friendly workouts. There’s also a great one to tap into that uses minimal to no equipment so you can do them in your hotel room while away.

Summertime Runs from Sunny Cities

Here, the tab will likely change based on the season and time of year. Since this is being written in the summer, this tab shows Time to Run exercises that feature trainers running in sunny cities, from Catalina to Honolulu. These also include curated Apple Music playlists to keep you on pace and motivated through the entire run, which can range from 30 up to 60 minutes.

Below this, you’ll also see other specially selected content based on the time of year and what’s available. Currently, for example, Soccer-inspired HIIT for Lionel Messi’s Arrival to MLS is being featured. But this featured workout will change, so it’s always fresh and new,

New Workouts and Meditations

Speaking of fresh and new, scroll down to see the newest workouts and meditations, ideal for those who do Apple Fitness+ workouts daily and are always looking for something new they haven’t done before. This is an easy place to find new workouts that have just been added. It’s also worth noting that when you do a workout, a checkmark appears beside the workout. This is an appreciated way to easily identify workouts you have done before and which ones you haven’t.

Artist Spotlight

All Apple Fitness+ workouts come accompanied by great music from Apple Music. In the Artist Spotlight section, you can see which artists are featured in the latest playlists. You can also see which episodes they’re in, so if you see a favorite that you know always gets your heart pumping, you can select a workout based on the music that will accompany it.

Simple and Quick, Inspired By…

As the name implies, here you’ll find Simple and Quick 10-20-minute workouts you can squeeze into those extra busy days. If you feel like you “don’t have time” for a workout, you can pop one of these on and at least get something short and sweet done to burn some calories. Some of these involve having other equipment, like a treadmill or bike, and others can be done with no equipment at all, like Pilates or HIIT.

Meanwhile, Apple ties in content from its other properties with Apple Fitness+, and sometimes, it will put together workouts and playlists that are inspired by a popular TV show, for example. At the time of this writing, it’s Ted Lasso. In the Inspired By… section, Apple highlights six workout episodes that fall into the “Believe In” series, inspired by the team spirit of the popular Apple TV+ series.

Fitness+ Trainers

Want to learn more about the various Apple Fitness+ trainers? In this summary section, it shows a small icon image of each trainer that you can click into to learn about their experience and life stories. Below each, once you select them, is a list of their workouts as well for quick, one-click access if you like what you read. Marimba Gold-Watts, for example, was a professional dancer before she began teaching. Jamie-Ray Hartshorne, a former musical theater performer and competitive Muaythai fighter, injects that fun and joyful spirit into all his workouts.

Workout Programs

An easy way to browse through all the available workouts in Apple Fitness+ is to scroll down to this section, which divides them into various categories for easy filtering. You can browse Workouts for Beginners, for example, look at exercises that help you stay active (and safe) during pregnancy, and even find a program to help you get back into fitness after having a baby. There are workouts for older adults, ones for snow season, and more. This is a great place to look if you have a specific need you want to fulfill and you’re looking for a program that can meet it.

Wonder what everyone else is doing? Scroll down to the Popular section to get an idea of which workouts, trainers, and specific exercises are most popular among other Apple Fitness+ users. You’ll see the top three on the home screen and can select Show More to see all of them. It’s a great way to see workouts that are universally beloved if you’re just looking to do a quick 10-minute core workout, for example, a 20-minute cycle, or even a fun dance workout to get you in a good mood to start your day.

Exercise isn’t all about the body, it’s also about the mind. In the dedicated Meditation Program section, you can browse through a variety of meditation workouts that are great to help you de-stress, reduce anxiety, or even top off an intense physical workout to get you back to a state of Zen. It begins with Meditation for Beginners, but there are also workouts for meditations to help you get a better night’s sleep, help strengthen relationships, and more.

Time to Walk

One of my favorite sections in the Apple Fitness+ app, Time to Walk, features stories, songs, and photos from influential figures, including musicians, actors, news anchors, activists, and others. Ranging from 20-45 minutes, each session features the subject going on their own walk while they recall stories and pivotal moments from their lives. They impart their wisdom and lessons they’ve learned and open up about family, career, and obstacles they have overcome. As they walk, you can hear the crunching of the leaves at their feet and the chirping of the birds around them. It’s a nice departure from the typical music playlist or podcast episode you might listen to while you walk or run. I’d highly recommend listening to Hannah Waddingham, the late Leslie Jordan, Simu Liu, Chelsea Handler, and Shawn Mendes, all of whom open up about their struggles in life as well as their joys, delivering an inspiring and entertaining talk. As they recall various moments in their lives, you’ll feel your Apple Watch buzz (if you have one) to display a tiny photo of something they’re referencing.

Try Something New

Sometimes, you need inspiration. This is where the Try Something New section comes in. If you’re tired of doing the same workouts or workout types, this can lead to stagnation and prevent you from keeping the momentum going. If you ever feel this way, scroll down to this section and look at some options you might like, which are based on workouts you have done before. If you have a custom routine set up, you can also instantly add a specific workout to it, like a yoga session or a quick strength training workout.

Time to Run

Like with Time to Walk, Time to Run showcases various trainers running through different locations around the world. The trainer will coach you along as you run while also delivering an upbeat playlist to help you keep pace. Locations range from Montreal in Canada to Aspen, Joshua Tree National Park, and Zurich, so you can feel like you’re right there while running through your own neighborhood or on your own local trail.

Guest Trainer Series, My Library

Apple Fitness+ has its core group of trainers, but sometimes, guest trainers join the foray. If you’re interested in learning more about them or trying something new that may only be available for a limited time, you can see what’s available in the Guest Trainer section. At the time of this writing, for example, the guest trainer is Jeanette Jenkins, who offers up a series of HIIT and strength workouts. With seven available in her set, it’s the perfect workout to try for a week before you move on to your next program or workout routine.

Finally, the last section in the Fitness+ tab of the Apple Fitness app is My Library. This is where you will find your stacked workouts, multiple workouts you have put together as a daily or weekly workout routine, meditations you might have flagged as favorites, custom workout plans you might have set up, a new feature in iOS 17, and any workouts you might have downloaded for offline access, like while you’re traveling or camping in a remote area without cellular connectivity.

Get ready to get active!

The Apple Fitness app still works without an Apple Watch, but you’ll get the most out of the experience with one. This is your portal to activity rings and other health and wellness stats. You can still track your general activity stats, most notably the Move ring, and share data with friends in the Fitness app without an Apple Watch, though. All you need is an iPhone, from older models as well as newer ones like the iPhone 14 Pro, to try out the Fitness app.

The Apple Fitness+ is the only paid section in the app, and you can use this with or without an Apple Watch as well. Though, as noted, you will get the most value out of it when you’re able to track your vitals and workout stats through a workout from the Apple Watch. You could theoretically do Apple Fitness+ workouts without the Apple Watch and manually track your stats through another smartwatch or fitness tracker, too. But the seamless experience with the Apple Watch and the integration of data makes it a much better experience with one.

Apple Fitness and Apple Fitness+ go hand-in-hand with an Apple Watch. I use the Apple Watch Series 8, but you can choose from a variety of models, from the newest, highest-end Apple Watch Ultra dating all the way back to models as old as the Apple Watch Series 3 (we’d advise opting for at least the Apple Watch Series 7 to future-proof your investment.

The Apple Fitness app is easy to navigate, with everything neatly organized for you to view, explore, and learn more. Note that to monitor other health and wellness stats, you’ll need to access the Apple Health app, which shows things like sleep data, resting heart rate, mood logging, and other health trends. It also integrates data from the Apple Fitness app so that you can view the data there as well.

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