Apple today announced a new gyms initiative that gives people discounts and various other benefits for working out with their Apple Watch.

According to CNBC, the Apple Watch Connected program is launching today in the Basecamp, Crunch Fitness, Orange Theory and YMCA gyms in the United States. Discounts for working out vary from one gym brand to another. As an example, Crunch Fitness members can save $3 to $4 per week on their membership bill if they meet certain workout goals each month. The program should give fitness buffs yet another reason to buy Apple Watches.

If you’re trying to work out, why not get a watch that works seamlessly with the gym you’re joining? And it helps gyms keep customers through rewards-based initiatives. It also adds a streamlined tech layer on top of gyms, which often have various third-party technologies that don’t always talk to the fitness wearables people have.

Four gyms are part of the program with select locations going live today, with the initiative set to expand to additional fitness facilities in the future.

Basecamp will launch Apple Watch Connected to all of its clubs over the next year. YMCA will start with its greater Twin Cities locations this week followed by 22 additional YMCA branches in the coming weeks before expanding further. Crunch Fitness is launching Apple Watch Connected in two Manhattan gyms this week with more coming. Finally, Orange Theory will deploy it in all U.S. facilities in 2020, starting with two Manhattan locations on Thursday.

Apple doesn’t impose a licensing fee for gyms wishing to join the initiative, but some requirements do apply such as having iPhone and Apple Watch apps to track workouts, offering rewards and incentives and accepting Apple Pay. The report mentions the following three tiers that must be supported by a gym that participates in the program:

  • An Apple Watch Connected gym has to have an iPhone and Apple Watch app that lets people track their fitness, see classes and log-in at the gym.
  • Gyms have to offer some sort of option for Apple Watch owners to “earn with Apple Watch.” For example, Crunch will give you a $3 to $4 in weekly credit if you meet certain goals, like working out a certain amount of time per month. The credits apply to the following month’s bill. You can hit those goals either by working out inside or outside of the gym. Orange Theory will offer gift cards to Apple and Nike for hitting certain goals. Basecamp Fitness will give you an Apple Watch Series 5 GPS model that you can earn back by participating in three classes a week for an entire year. At the YMCA, your workouts will go toward providing free classes for children, like swim lessons.
  • The gym has to accept Apple Pay. That means you can leave your phone in the car and just use the watch to buy stuff like water, food or other goods only using your wrist.
    A fourth tier isn’t required but is offered by some fitness facilities like Crunch: GymKit support. These are special machines that will automatically sync your workouts to your Apple Watch, providing more information than the Apple Watch might be able to get on its own. For example, a stair climber will give you a more accurate representation on floors you’ve climbed, since the sensors inside the Apple Watch can only track actual flights of stairs as you change altitude.

The report mentions Apple also “encourages” gyms to offer GymKit-compatible equipment for improved Apple Watch syncing. Since announcing GymKit in 2018, the feature saw limited roll-out so maybe this new initiative from Apple will help accelerate GymKit’s adoption.

If GymKit is available in your local gym, you’ll see “Connect to Apple Watch” branding.

Simply holding your watch within a few centimeters of the contactless reader on the gym equipment, with the display facing the reader, is all it takes to pair your watch to the machine. This lets you sync your data with cardio equipment like treadmills, ellipticals, indoor bikes and more, providing you with more accurate information about your workout than the Apple Watch might be able to get on its own.

For instance, a GymKit stair climber may more accurately calculate floors you’ve climbed because the Apple Watch sensors can only track actual flights of stairs as you change altitude.

Have you ever used GymKit-compatible cardio equipment in your local gym?

If so, what was your experience like? And while we’re at it, what are your feelings on the Apple Watch Connected program?

Share your thoughts and observations in the comments down below!