Article Thumbnail

With All These YouTube Workout Videos, Do You Really Need a Peloton?

What’s the best online fitness program for you? Let’s investigate — testing Apple Fitness+ vs. Peloton vs. all the free exercise clips we can find

Millions of us are still mostly stuck working at home, cultivating a full-on quarantine bod. Then there are your thirsty-ass friends on social media who have been stuck at home working out. They’re doing it all different ways, and so can you — now more than ever. Apple Fitness+ just came out. Peloton’s been all up in this for years now. A million gyms, yoga studios and fitness influencers have programs online. Then there are all the free videos on YouTube.

How do they all compare? When it’s Apple Fitness+ vs. Peloton vs. YouTube, are you better off paying a premium price for a trendy brand or personalized attention — or DIY-ing it yourself at home with an exercise bike, dumbbells, yoga mat or even nothing at all? Let’s investigate!

Apple Fitness+

What It Costs: $9 a month or $79 a year (or as part of the Apple One plan for $29.95 a month). If you buy an Apple Watch, you get a three-month trial for free.

What You Get: It’s more than a bit like Peloton — guided virtual group workouts, but with 10 types of workouts available: cycling, treadmill (running and walking), rowing, yoga, dance, core, strength, HIIT and cool-downs.

What It Takes: If you don’t have an Apple Watch, forget about it. And of course an Apple Watch requires an iPhone (but you can also stream workouts on an iPad or through Apple TV… you get the idea). You’ll also need your own fitness equipment — bike, treadmill, rowing machine, weights, mat, etc.

What It’s Like: There was no way Apple was gonna sit back and watch Peloton gobble up the workout-from-home market. The options, workouts and features often resemble Peloton’s platform, but early reviews highlight several of Apple Fitness+’s inferiorities. The quality of instructors ranges from great to bad. Information and specificity is often in short supply: It’s hard to know which class or instructor to choose, the workouts can be inconsistent or poorly explained (things get confusing without a built-in power meter automatically feeding your data into the app, like Peloton) and their own version of Peloton’s leaderboard feature (Apple has a “burn bar”) merely ranks your effort against the overall curve of the class, not against anyone specific. You can’t really work out “with” someone (though, if your partner has her watch synced, you can just hit “Open Goal” on your watch and do the same routine. Probably by design, it’s exceedingly difficult to upload your Fitness+ workout to Strava, a popular fitness app. The music — Apple Music, obviously — is very well integrated into the program, but again, this requires you to be signed up for it.

The gist is that Apple Fitness+, for now, appears better suited toward someone newer to exercise or the more casual workout fan. The types of metrics that Peloton offers often aren’t available, to the annoyance of hardcore number crunchers. 

Is It Worth It?: There’s little question Apple Fitness+ will improve over time, as their offerings inevitably do. In the meantime, if you’re already an Apple stan, might as well see about a free trial and find out for yourself.


What It Costs: Peloton’s standalone app is $12.99 per month; the all-access membership is $39 per month if you have Peloton’s proprietary bike ($1,895 and up) or treadmill ($2,495 and up), which give you on-screen metrics like power and resistance and a more enhanced experience.

What You Get: Live and recorded virtual group workouts (thousands of them) in cycling, running, core, yoga, strength, HIIT/cardio, cool-downs and meditation.

What It Takes: All the app requires is a phone or tablet (and then your own home equipment like a bike, treadmill, weights or mat); the full meal deal requires expensive hardware — i.e., Peloton’s bike or treadmill. More expensive hardware packages include additional equipment.

What It’s Like: Peloton’s shit is easy to clown on (that infamous commercial, those bougie fitness models riding machines that aren’t plugged in while they literally look down on the rest of the world), but it remains wildly popular, with an engaged community, all because the brand has an overall great program (if you’re the type who likes to ride a pretend bicycle indoors or actually run on a treadmill).

Group classes are well labeled and descriptive, allowing you to dial in what you want and know what you’re in for. The leaderboards allow you to work out with a friend and compare your efforts to your peers’. The instructors are well regarded. Peloton’s own bike and treadmill provide data that directly feeds into the app, which numbers folks enjoy.

Is It Worth It?: The hardware is expensive as hell: You can get an amazing, actual bicycle for far less money (or go running out your front door for free). But the standalone app is much cheaper at around $13, and if you don’t mind its limited capabilities with regard to your own data on your own exercise bike or treadmill, then it’s otherwise a reasonable value. But the reason Peloton is so popular appears to be its enticing cocktail of good workouts with your own data easily available, on-screen, against everyone else in the class.

Fitness Influencer Coaching Programs

What It Costs: The price and the duration is all over the place, depending on the person and the program — from under $50 up to hundreds of dollars for two weeks, 21 days, a month, six weeks, eight weeks… You get the idea.

What You Get: Exclusive workouts, proprietary apps and other materials, sometimes meal plans, live lectures, one-on-one time and the chance to be coached by an influencer guy with more abs than anyone thought were humanly possible. 

What It Takes: A credit card, some home fitness equipment and a strong willingness to follow some guy’s plan.

What It’s Like: Lots of cartoon abs, bulging veins, glistening torsos and backward hats. But also a rigid program with a lot of workout and nutritional information, plus actual feedback from a real human being. This sort of thing is for those truly committed to losing weight, getting in shape or obtaining a beach body in time for summer. While the experiences can be all over the place, the plans can absolutely work — but they take both devotion and money.

Is It Worth It?: Some people need a rigid plan, direct coaching and regular feedback. If you’re one of them, there’s a chance you’ll see better results going this route over most anything else besides old-fashioned, in-person personal training.

Free YouTube Videos

What It Costs: The square root of zero.

What You Get: You can find fitness classes on YouTube in lots and lots of areas: Cardio, strength and core can be found all over the place. Dance videos are wildly popular. There are virtual cycling rides in beautiful locations. Rowing videos (which, for some reason, often feature a shirtless instructor). Obviously there’s Yoga With Adriene. And if you have a specific hobby, you can usually find cross-training videos for it — surfing, golf, tennis, you name it.

What It Takes: An internet connection, a device, plus your own fitness equipment.

What It’s Like: As is the case with anything on YouTube, the experiences are all over the place, from janky to totally slick and professional. There’s no interactivity: It’s always going to be a one-way, and solo, experience. But if that’s all you’re looking for? Fuck, man, click away. Compared to an app like Peloton or Apple, it’s not necessarily easy to find something you like out in the vast wasteland of YouTube, but there are lots of articles being written all the time that compile the better, or at least more popular, free YouTube workout videos.

Is It Worth It?: It’s free! Aside from the time spent, and the trial and error of finding a video you like, there’s no cost. What’s better than that?