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Apple’s new GymKit functionality is officially launching this week. The new Apple Watch feature was first unveiled at WWDC ’17 in June, and it’s now starting to roll out in the U.S. — but it might be a while before you can use it yourself.
GymKit, put simply, is an NFC-based system that lets the Apple Watch interface and sync with a wide range of gym equipment. It’s designed to be extremely simple: just tap your Apple Watch to an NFC label on a GymKit-compatible machine, wait for the haptic feedback, and you’re good to go.
If you forget to tap at the beginning of the workout, on the other hand, that’s okay. As long as you tap anytime during the workout, the gym equipment and the Apple Watch will sync all of their recorded data thus far and will ensure current workout data is recent and accurate.
With the GymKit functionality, the Apple Watch and the gym equipment itself share tracking duties. A treadmill, for example, will keep track of pace, incline and distance, while a user’s Apple Watch will track calories burned and heart rate. All of this information will be synced across both devices and sent to Apple’s proprietary health apps.
Obviously, since standard gym equipment and wearable devices differ in their tracking capabilities, the GymKit synchronization will allow for the most accurate workout data possible — particularly since Apple’s health ecosystem should already know a user’s height, weight and minute-by-minute heart rate. The Apple Watch’s data will be supplemented by things that a treadmill is better at tracking, such as incline and distance.
Since the data is synced, you’ll be able to see information collected by an Apple Watch — like current heart rate and a more accurate caloric burn — on a supported treadmill’s display.
Apple’s gym equipment partners include LifeFitness, Cyber, TechnoGym, Matric, Star Trac, StairMaster and Schwinn. Together, these OEMs account for about 80 percent of the entire gym equipment marketplace. So, in time, your own gym should support GymKit.
Currently, GymKit works with four types of cardio equipment: treadmills, ellipticals, stair steppers and indoor bikes. Additional cardio-based equipment, like rowing machines, may be coming in the future.
Similarly, Apple Watch users will need to be running watchOS 4.1 to use GymKit.
The main sticking point with GymKit currently is that it’s seeing an initially limited rollout. As of the writing of this article, GymKit-supported equipment is only available at one location in the U.S.: the Life Time Athletic center at Sky club in New York City, The Verge reported. Similarly, even though GymKit has already launched in the U.K. and Australia, it’s only available at one location in each country.
This will change in the future, however. Life Time Athletic, one of Apple’s first club partners, has announced that it will include GymKit machines in 14 of its new clubs in 2018. Similarly, Equinox has promised to outfit its new clubs opening in 2018 with GymKit equipment.
The other downside is that Apple’s current partners, Equinox and Life Fitness, are relatively expensive clubs. If you’re at a different gym, there’s currently no timeline as to when GymKit will come to your club. For that to happen, more gym equipment manufacturers and gym locations will need to get on board.