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Much like last year, Apple followed up its Apple Watch Series 7 unveil yesterday by sharing some interesting updates to Apple Fitness+, although this was probably pretty easy to gloss over, as it was sandwiched before the much-anticipated iPhone 13 announcements.
It turns out, however, that Apple will be introducing a pretty big enhancement to its streaming fitness service, thanks to the new SharePlay feature coming in iOS 15.
A new feature called Group Workouts will allow users to participate in workout sessions of up to 32 people at once. This will work via SharePlay, similarly to how users will be able to simply kick back and watch movies and TV shows together via services like Apple TV+ and Disney+.
According to Apple’s announcement, however, it appears that Group Workouts will include some special capabilities specific to Apple Fitness+. For one thing, you’ll not only be able to share the workout video, but you’ll also see at least some of your friends’ fitness stats on the screen, so you can help keep each other motivated.
For example, when someone moves ahead on their Burn Bar, or closes one of their Activity rings, everybody else will be notified so that they can “celebrate together or even trade some friendly smack talk to keep each other going.”
While the feature isn’t coming until later this year — likely since SharePlay has also been delayed in general — once it’s available you’ll be able to start a Group Workout directly from a group message thread or a FaceTime call on an iPhone or iPad.
Unfortunately, from Apple’s description, it looks like it won’t be available natively on the Apple TV Fitness app, at least not right away. Instead, Apple notes that you’ll need to kick it off using the “Apple TV with AirPlay” from your iPhone or iPad. This appears to differ slightly from how SharePlay will work for watching videos.
Apple is also introducing two new workout types, along with a new category of workouts to help winter sports enthusiasts get ramped up for the season.
New Guided Meditations will complement the new Mindfulness app coming in watchOS 8, and build on the Mindful Cooldowns that Apple Fitness+ already offers.
Users will be able to choose from nine guided Mediation themes — Purpose, Kindness, Gratitude, Awareness, Creativity, Wisdom, Calm, Focus, and Resilience — and be led through a 5–20 minute video experience by a Fitness+ trainer.
Notably, these same guided meditations will also be made available in audio form in the Mindfulness app in watchOS 8, allowing users to experience them anytime and in any place. These will enhance the standard “Reflect” meditation that Apple already announced for watchOS 8 back in June. Users will also be able to combine these meditations with Apple Watch workouts to track walking, hiking, or stretching activity while meditating.
In addition to the current roster of Mindful Cooldown and Yoga trainers such as Dustin Brown and Jessica Skye, Apple is also welcoming Christian Howard and JoAnna Hardy, two new trainers with over 40 years of experience teaching various forms of meditation.
Apple is also adding Pilates to the mix, as a new low-impact workout to offer users more options for maintaining and improving strength and flexibility. Most of these will require nothing more than a mat, although users can also choose to use a resistance band, and they’ll come in at 10-, 20-, and 30-minute sessions.
Pilates sessions will be led by two new Fitness+ trainers, Marimba Gold-Watts, an award-winning Pilates trainer and former professional dancer, and Darryl Whiting, a former pro athlete who brings a more athletic approach to the discipline.
Lastly, Apple has also created a new collection of Workouts to Get Ready for Snow Season to help skiers and snowboarders get ready to hit the slopes. The set of workouts has been curated and designed by two-time Olympic gold medalist and five-time world champion alpine skier Ted Ligety and Fitness+ trainer Anja Garcia, who is an experienced snowboarder.
These are standard studio workouts across a variety of disciplines, including HIIT, Strength, Yoga, and Core, specifically tailored to help build up strength, improve balance, and increase endurance for winter sporting enthusiasts.
When Apple Fitness+ launched in late 2019, it came to a fairly limited number of English-speaking countries — the U.S., Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the U.K. — however it looks like Apple is finally ready for a bigger international expansion for the service.
Later this year, Fitness+ will come to 15 new countries, including Austria, Brazil, Colombia, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates.
Since all the trainers still speak English, the Fitness+ videos will be subtitled in six languages, rather than dubbed. Apple hasn’t said whether it plans to eventually announce foreign trainers for a more natural and inclusive experience for users in these other countries.
Unfortunately, despite this wider expansion, it seems that users in these new countries will still have to pay for Apple Fitness+ separately. Apple doesn’t indicate if Apple One will be expanding beyond the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and Canada, but this seems unlikely since Apple News+ isn’t yet available beyond those countries.