Peloton, Zwift and Apple Fitness+ really work, according to science

Studies show digital fitness tech like Peloton and Apple Fitness+ really can drive users to make better health choices

Peloton Zwift
(Image credit: Getty)

Have you tried any digital workout services yet? From established names like Peloton, which has expanded from cycling to incorporate over ten different kinds of workouts, to rivals like Zwift and the recently-announced Apple Fitness+, guided home workouts you can access on an app or your smart TV are booming in popularity. As the global health crisis forced people indoors, it's easy to see why there's been such a boom in popularity. 

Many of us struggle with staying on track when it comes to fitness. However, these guided workouts, in which you can set your own goals and keep track of your progress along a personalised fitness plan, might be just the thing to get you off the sofa. 

One study, published in the scientific journal Frontiers In Public Health, looked at changing behaviours in sedentary adults when using digital fitness tech.

The study's authors found "many individuals who are inactive do not know how they can increase their activity. One strategy that may be especially important for this group is action planning, or prompting the user to make detailed plans about when and where they will increase their activity."

Together with goal setting functions, digital fitness apps provide a clear framework and action plans to achieve small goals. This takes some of the guesswork out of health and fitness, and has been found to be very effective in getting normally inactive people off the sofa and into their trainers on a regular basis 

Apple Fitness+

(Image credit: Apple)

This framework has proven very popular: Peloton, Zwift, the recently-announced Apple Fitness+ and other digital services all provide tailored workout plans and a list of achievable goals for people to begin their fitness journey. 

The study goes on to say behavioural changes rely on coaching and information. Listing "teaching people how many steps are in a mile, how much time it will take to walk 1,000 steps, and social support" as examples, the right information and a community of like-minded people are key factors in supporting behavioural changes.  

Digital workout services can provide this coaching and social support, connecting the user with others for online "group workouts".

Ring Fit Adventure

(Image credit: Amazon)

Even video games are getting in on the act, with Nintendo's Ring Fit Adventure using a new workout apparatus, a Ring-Con, to perform in-game movements. Zwift, the cycling and fitness app, offers similar virtual cycling-related games to play. 

The "gameification" of exercise is a great way to get the same feeling of hitting goals: at the end of your exercise period, you complete a level or defeat an enemy, stimulating the reward centre of the brain like a normal videogame and encouraging you to keep playing. 

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Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.