Your Apple Watch and cardio machines inside gyms can talk to each other. Using your Apple Watch with gym equipment like treadmills, ellipticals and indoor bikes gives you a better, more complete set of metrics such as heart rate, distance, speed, elevation and so forth. iDB lays out ways to use Apple Watch with gym equipment, including how to pair your Apple Watch with cardio machines and how to start and end a workout on the gym equipment.
What is GymKit?
GymKit is Apple’s technology platform that lets you connect Apple Watch workouts with cardio equipment such as treadmills, ellipticals (crosstrainers), stair steppers and indoor bikes. Spinning bikes, resistance machines and other equipment are currently unsupported.
Syncing Apple Watch data with GymKit-enabled machines gives you the most accurate distance, cadence, pace, energy burn and other metrics possible. Your heart rate continue to be measured by the heart rate sensor built into the watch, but gets displayed on the machine’s screen. Apple explains that only a software update along with a small upgrade of the contactless NFC sensor is required in order to add GymKit compatibility to these machines.
With GymKit, important stats like your heart rate, distance, speed, floors climbed, incline, pace and calories is always in sync between the watch and your favorite cardio equipment.
Wearable.com explains why that’s a good thing:
In isolation gym equipment and the Apple Watch used for indoors can be a little incomplete. The watch is good for heart rate, but distance, accuracy and elevation on a treadmill is impossible. Likewise, no-one actually calibrates their treadmill in the gym so even if you do use a chest strap, calorie burn is normally way off.
A GymKit stair climber, for example, is able to calculate floors you’ve climbed more accurately by polling its own sensors rather than rely on the Apple Watch sensors which can only track actual flights of stairs as you change altitude.
To use GymKit, you need the following:
- Apple Watch Series 2 or later
- watchOS 4.1 or newer
- Membership in a one of the participating gyms that support GymKit
GymKit has seen limited adoption so far.
The feature is currently supported by a handful of large gym chains. Apple says it’s wrangled up support for GymKit from the biggest gym equipment manufacturers that ship eighty percent of the cardio machines used in gyms around the world.
GymKit is available in the following gym chains:
- Core Health and Fitness (Cybex, SCIFIT, StairMaster, Star Trac, Schwinn and Nautilus)
- Life Fitness
- Matrix Fitness
- Octane Fitness
- TRUE Fitness
- Virgin Active
GymKit officially debuted with launch support for Life Fitness, Core Health and Fitness, Matrix Fitness and Technogym as part of the watchOS 4.1 software update which released to the public on September 19, 2017. watchOS 6.1, released on October 31, 2019, extended compatibility to Octane Fitness, TRUE Fitness and Woodway.
Follow along with iDB’s step-by-step tutorial to learn how to connect Apple Watch to compatible gym equipment and experience two-way synchronization of data with just a tap.
How to use Apple Watch with gym equipment
Follow the steps below to learn how to use Apple Watch with gym equipment, from pairing the wearable device with compatible machines to starting and ending workouts.
How to pair Apple Watch with gym equipment
With NFC technology in Apple Watch, you can effortlessly connect the wearable device with compatible pieces of gym equipment, and here’s how:
1) Start by enabling the ability for your Apple Watch to detect gym machines. Navigate to Settings → Workout on the watch (or to My Watch → Workout in the Watch app on your iPhone), then slide the toggle Detect Gym Equipment to the ON position.
2) Verify that your favorite gym machine is compatible with HomeKit by looking for the sticker “Connects with Apple Watch” or “Connect with Apple Watch” on the equipment.
3) To quickly connect, hold the watch within a few centimeters of the contactless NFC reader on the gym machine, with the display facing the reader as if you were using Apple Pay.
This will automatically launch the Workout app. You will feel a gentle tap on your wrist and hear a beep as a confirmation that the watch is paired.
Forgot to switch on the Detect Gym Equipment option in Settings?
Not to worry, you can also start a workout by launching the Workout app, then hold the watch near a gym machine — again, with the display facing the machine’s contactless reader. The amount of rich data from the gym machine that’s displayed on the watch depends on the type of the selected workout, as explained by Wearable:
From a run you’re able to see calories, distance, time, average pace, elevation gain, average heart rate and recovery heart rate. And from a treadmill run, that’s actually a staggering amount of data. You’d be hard pressed to find that level of detail anywhere else from an indoor workout.
Cyclists will also be pleased. In addition to that same data you’ll get power wattage and RPM from the bike, which is data that even outdoor cyclists struggle to capture. And if you’re into the stepper, you’ll get floors climbed too, which would previously have been impossible to measure from just the Apple Watch.
Forgot to pair the watch with the gym machine before your workout?
No problem, simply tap the watch to your gym equipment while in a workout session and watchOS will automatically sync up the data. But wait, that’s not all — you will even get full credit for the workout session both on the watch itself and within the Workout app.
How to start and end workouts
Upon connecting the watch to a piece of gym equipment, you can start and end a workout using its onboard controls rather than the Workout app, and here’s how:
- Start your workout: Press Start on the gym equipment to begin the workout.
- End your workout: Press Stop on the gym equipment to end the workout.
Like before, you can also start and end your session in the Workout app like you normally would. “When you end your workout, data from the equipment appears in the workout summary in the Activity app on your Apple Watch and iPhone,” Apple explains.
GymKit and your privacy
GymKit was designed to protect your privacy.
You can choose what you share with your gym equipment at any time. After pairing your watch to a GymKit-compatible machine, the devices exchange data as soon as you start and stop workouts on the watch. With your workout ended, the gym machine saves data to the watch.
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