Apple envisioned its fitness service long before work-from-home, executives say

The service, which Apple said will be available by the end of the year, has new workouts each week filmed by a team of trainers

  
Dino Lin, Stella Zhang and Wowo Lin, 5, exercise using filled water bottles as weights as they watch a fitness class online at their house, during the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, China, February 25, 2020. Image for illustrative purposes. REUTERS/Aly Song

Dino Lin, Stella Zhang and Wowo Lin, 5, exercise using filled water bottles as weights as they watch a fitness class online at their house, during the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, China, February 25, 2020. Image for illustrative purposes. REUTERS/Aly Song

Sept 17 (Reuters) - Apple Inc's new paid online fitness class service, designed to work with its Apple Watch, was a long-planned extension of the watch's fitness features rather than a quick reaction to a pandemic that has closed many gyms, executives said in an interview.

The Fitness+ service is Apple's first subscription geared to make money directly from the sensor-packed device it has been selling since 2014.

The service, which Apple said will be available by the end of the year, has new workouts each week filmed by a team of trainers in a purpose-built studio in Los Angles and focuses on exercises that require little or no gym equipment, using Apple Watch sensors to track progress.

Many analysts viewed the service, which was announced on Tuesday, as well timed for a work-from-home world. But Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams said in an interview on Wednesday that work on the service started "quite a while ago." He described it as "a natural extension of the goal of Apple Watch, which is to help people live a better day."

“At least pre-Covid, if you could write one prescription for the world from physicians, it would have been to be more active. It’s so powerful," Williams said in a press briefing. "So anything we do in that realm that helps people be more active is something we're excited about.”

Once gyms do reopen, the Fitness+ service will also work with compatible gym equipment such as smart treadmills. The service will cost $10 per month or $80 per year.

Jay Blahnik, senior director of fitness technologies at Apple, said the service's goal is to reach as broad an audience as possible and that Apple aimed to assemble a diverse lineup of instructors.

“We have trainers in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and even their 60s. Showcasing that kind of diversity was really important to us because how we move and how we train is different as we age," Blahnik said.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; editing by Jonathan Oatis) ((Stephen.Nellis@thomsonreuters.com; (415) 344-4934;))

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