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Are Fitness Subscription Services Worth It? Let’s Take a Look

younger couple checking their fitness trackers during an exercise session

Apple Fitness Plus vs. Fitbit Premium vs. Peloton vs. Free Options

By Samantha Clark, supervisor of wellness at Network Health
5/25/2022

(Take me to the comparison)

If you’re like millions of people, you own a fitness tracker. These devices, typically watches, allow you to see how many steps you’re walking throughout the day. Most can also track your heart rate to give you an even better idea of how many calories you’re burning as you work toward your fitness goals.

If you’re looking for which fitness tracker is best for you, we ran a comparison late last year with information that is still relevant. You can find that by clicking here. If you’re not sure if fitness tracking devices are safe, we also explored that in a previous article which you can read by clicking here.

One of the things you may not expect when you buy a fitness tracker or exercise device, however, is how eager the companies manufacturing them are to get you to sign up for a premium service that includes video lessons, in-depth analytics and more.

These subscription apps promise the level of individualization and accountability you’d likely get with a personal trainer. Do they live up to this? Let’s find out.

Are fitness subscription apps worth the cost?

We’re going to way the merits of these services, but one thing that’s not up for debate is their colossal presence in both the personal technology and fitness worlds. Undoubtedly catalyzed by COVID-19 gym closures and safer-at-home measures, these premium applications had a combined market value of 1.1 billion dollars in 2021 according to healthcare research firm Grandview.

Despite gyms opening up again, these premium services seem to be doing a good job of retaining users and attracting new ones. Grandview estimates that they will continue to grow at a 17.6% rate in 2022, bucking the trend for other stopgap technologies that kept people connected when physical services with not available or unsafe in 2020 and 2021.

This growth indicates a positive verdict for app-guided workouts and analytics-driven fitness tracking. After testing several of these services, wellness blog Positive Fit concluded that “Workout apps are breaking down barriers for high-quality personal coaching and custom programs because now everybody can afford it.”

Fitness is not one-size-fits-all

As we’ve talked about extensively here on the Network Health blog, it’s hard to paint with broad strokes when it comes to fitness or wellness. Every body is different. It follows that every fitness plan and medium will differ slightly as well.

While many people at Network Health love their fitness trackers and premium fitness apps, they may not match your individual fitness flavor and preferences. Remember, the best fitness plan is the one you’re going to do. Some people prefer a low-tech approach to life. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it may be worth considering for several reasons.

Thankfully, all of the fitness apps we’re going to look at below have a free trial that lets you dig in and see if they’re the right fit for you and if using them is something you’ll get value from as you reach toward your goals.

Let’s compare the popular ones.

Apple Fitness Plus vs. Fitbit Premium vs. Peloton

App Price** Trial Features Device(s) Needed*
Apple Fitness+ $10/month (or $80/year) 3 months (with purchase of compatible Apple Watch device) Exercise classes (recorded), in-session metrics, suggested workouts, plan shareable with family (up to five) Apple Watch and Apple TV, iPad, iPhone or Mac computer
Fitbit Premium $10/month (or $80/year) 3 months (with purchase of Fitbit device) Guided exercise plans, in-depth Fitbit tracker analytics, one-on-one fitness coaching Compatible smartphone, tablet or smart TV and optional Fitbit tracking device
Peloton $13/month (with discounts for first responders) 30 days Live and recorded exercise classes, workout playlists, seamless Peloton equipment compatibility and integration Compatible smartphone, tablet or smart TV and optional Peloton fitness equipment

*Check your device literature and manufacturer communications for compatibility
** Price and information are as of the date of this blog's publication

Which fitness app should I get?

Like anything related to fitness, the answer is the one you’re most likely to enjoy using. It’s hard not to see reasons for choosing each of these big three. 

Having kick-started the entire connected fitness industry (pun intended) with its Peloton bike in 2012, the eponymous company has made a name for itself through virtual workout classes. It’s not just coasting on its status as first to the party, however.

While more expensive than the other two (without a discount Peloton offers for military, first responders and others), Peloton offers a huge catalog of recorded workout classes and a constantly expanding schedule of live ones that allow you to work out with other people around the country and world.

With such a range of live and recorded classes available, Peloton is a great option to take you from just beginning your fitness journey all the way up as you set and exceed new goals.

At only $10/month and seamlessly integrating with popular Fitbit devices, however, you may find Fitbit Premium to be the service for you. The ability to find entire workout programs and add one-on-one personal training means Fitbit Premium is likely to be popular for those who want a more guided and hands-on approach.

Finally, Apple Fitness+ is a solid option that will naturally fit into the technology stack and lifestyle of anybody who is firmly entrenched in the Apple ecosystem. In fact, it’s included in Apple’s popular all-in-one subscription service Apple One, which also gives users Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, Apple news+ and extra iCloud storage.

You may already have access to it.

What about non-subscription fitness tracking?

With a bit of extra planning, vigilance and knowing where to look online, you may find that none of these services help you quite as much as keeping track of your fitness and using free resources like YouTube or podcasts for your home workouts.

Popular YouTube channels like POPSUGAR Fitness, Yoga with Adriene, Athlean X and Diverse Personal Training have millions of subscribers between them and publish recorded content that will help you reach your fitness goals.

Measuring steps, heart rate and more, fitness tracking devices will help provide metrics on the effectiveness of your workouts.

Combining these two resources allows you to find a workout plan that works for you and measure your progress as you work through it. Deciding if the tidiness and integration of a premium app are worth the monthly (or yearly) cost is a decision you’ll make.

At Network Health, we’re building healthy and strong Wisconsin communities. Wellness is a central part of that mission and helping our members and those in our community find ways to feel healthier and stronger every day is what compels us to do what we do.

For more information on how your Wisconsin health plan can help you feel your best in Wisconsin, contact us today.

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