New ‘Apple Watch Connected’ Gym Program Will Reward You for Working out at Participating Gyms

Apple Watch GymKit treadmill Credit: Kanut Photo / Shutterstock
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Two years ago Apple debuted GymKit as an effort to promote the fitness aspects of the Apple Watch, allowing manufacturers of workout equipment to add features that would provide Apple Watch users with the ability to sync their workout data with devices like treadmills.

This feature not only allows users to take their workout data with them when they leave, but also to integrate monitoring features to give them a more complete picture of their fitness, since of course the Apple Watch is already tracking things like calories burned and heart rate, so data from a treadmill could add things like pace, incline, and distance for a more detailed analysis in Apple’s Health app.

The catch, however, is that GymKit has been relatively slow to catch on, so in an attempt to promote the feature further, Apple has decided to create a “connected gyms” program that lets Apple Watch owners know where they can user GymKit-compatible fitness equipment, and also gives them additional perks for doing so.

According to CNBC, the new program, which will be dubbed Apple Watch Connected, is going live today in the U.S. with four gyms involved in the initial rollout: Basecamp Fitness, Crunch Fitness, Orange Theory, and YMCA. In addition to guaranteeing that GymKit-compatible equipment will be available at their locations, members of participating gyms will also be able to receive rewards for working out with their Apple Watch.

Participating Gyms

In order to participate, gyms will obviously need to offer GymKit compatible equipment, although there are limited exceptions for studios like Orange Theory where users get on and off equipment regularly during a studio-style workout class. Otherwise, an unspecified percentage of cardio machines must offer GymKit capabilities to sync data to users’ Apple Watches.

That’s not all, however. Since Apple wants to promote the Apple ecosystem as thoroughly as possible, Apple Watch Connected Gyms must also have their own iPhone and Apple Watch app that can be used to track their fitness, view their classes, and check-in at the gym. Further, facilities in the gym such as vending machines, equipment rentals, and snack counters must also accept Apple Pay so that users can buy and rent items using only their wrist without having to even bring their iPhone or wallet into the gym.

‘Earn With Apple Watch’

Gyms are also required to offer a way for members to “earn with Apple Watch,” by offering perks and savings for members, but according to CNBC, gyms are actually eager to participate as they see it as a way to help retain customers, who may otherwise frequently hop between different gyms.

For example, Crunch Fitness is offering members savings of $3–$4 per week on their membership fees if they meet certain workout goals each month, while Orange Theory will offer Apple and Nike gift cards. Basecamp Fitness is going even further, allowing users to pay off an Apple Watch Series 5 GPS model by participating in three classes a week for an entire year. Naturally, the YMCA is taking a slightly more philanthropic approach, allowing your workouts to be credited toward providing free swimming and fitness classes for children.

Keith Worts, CEO of Crunch Signature, expressed his excitement with the program in a press briefing at a Crunch Fitness gym yesterday, adding that it’s also being done with privacy and security in mind, reassuring users that Crunch won’t be using the data from Apple Watches to track their members, and that none of Crunch’s own metrics, such as which machines members use most, will be shared with Apple. Essentially, it looks like the only data sharing will be that which users do themselves by tapping their Apple Watch on the GymKit machines, which have also been built with privacy in mind — Apple’s HealthKit framework already uses secure end-to-end encryption to store health and fitness data in iCloud.

Although four organizations have committed to participating in the new Apple Watch Connected program, it will take some time before it will roll out to all of their facilities. Crunch Fitness and Orange Theory are each starting with two of their more popular Manhattan locations, while YMCA is bringing it to its greater Twin Cities locations this week. Basecamp and Orange Theory have committed to deploying it in all of their U.S. facilities by the end of 2020, however, while Crunch Fitness and YMCA have simply said that there are more locations coming.

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