This is how the connection to fitness equipment works

Apple developed GymKit, which has been available in a limited selection of gyms since 2017. It allows you to have your Apple Watch “talk” to the equipment in your gym. There was also one from 2020 Connected-program. You can read about both initiatives in this explanation.

Below you can read about:

What’s new in GymKit

GymKit has been around since 2017. Below you can read the latest developments in the GymKit field.

Apple released the GymKit Certification Assistant app in September 2022, hoping to attract more accessory makers to offer GymKit support. This app can be downloaded from the App Store if you have a developer account and direct link. You can’t just search for it in the app store. The app is intended for MFi license holders to help with testing connectivity, pairing, and other issues. Manufacturers can test how accurate the measurements are and whether the NFC connection is working properly. They can also use this to resolve errors. It is hoped that the number of fitness equipment with GymKit will now increase somewhat.

What is GymKit?

GymKit is powered by watchOS 4 and was announced during WWDC 2017. It uses the NFC chip found in every Apple Watch. You can tap your Apple Watch on a suitable device at the gym to exchange data. This way you get an accurate measurement of your athletic performance.

watchOS as a fitness tracker

Apple Watch and the fitness device work closely together, leveraging the strengths of each device. Cardio machines such as a treadmill or exercise bike can easily determine distances based on the number of cycles. But to measure the heart rate, you will always have to install the sensors on the armrests. With GymKit, the Apple Watch takes care of your heart rate, because it can monitor it continuously.

GymKit combines the two data sources and prevents a known situation from occurring: On the treadmill, you see your heart rate is 150, while the Apple Watch shows 162. Estimation of calories and distances is also better coordinated.

What is Connected?

As of 2020, Apple has another way to get Apple Watch users to the gym. With Connected, you can earn rewards by completing workouts at the gym. A select number of gyms have partnered with Apple for this purpose. Wages vary by company. You can sometimes get a discount on your Apple Watch or gym membership.

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The downside to this Connected program is that it only works with a few gyms in the United States. In the US, Apple works with gyms like Basecamp Fitness, Crunch Fitness, Orangetheory Fitness, and YMCA. Who knows, one day we might be able to use it in the Netherlands and Belgium, but don’t count on it in the near future. For example, the gym must also be equipped with equipment with GymKit and as you can read in this explanation, this is not yet available in the Netherlands.

One gym has also created an accessory that links your Apple Watch’s heart rate results to those of the system itself.

Apple Watch OrangeTheory heart rate sensor.

How do I activate GymKit?

To use GymKit, you need an Apple Watch and appropriate cardio equipment, like a treadmill or rower.

Before you start your workout, connect your Apple Watch wirelessly to the treadmill. This is similar to making an Apple Pay payment: you press the side button twice. Then you exercise. After a workout, data is saved only on your Apple Watch. The information on the treadmill has been erased.

If pairing with fitness equipment doesn’t work, go to the Watch app on your iPhone Workout > Reveal fitness device. Make sure the switch is turned on.

Where can GymKit be used?

GymKit is currently available in a limited number of gyms in the following countries:

  • Australia: Fitness First in Sydney and Melbourne.
  • United Kingdom: Virgin Active Mansion House in central London.
  • USA: Life Time Athletic in New York; The Equinox series will be added in 2018.

There will also be locations in Canada, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. Therefore, the number of sites is still very limited. We regularly receive reports from Dutch and Belgian users who have seen GymKit running somewhere on a fitness device. However, this is only done to a limited extent.

GymKit and Apple Watch

GymKit in use

GymKit is currently a tool for developers and manufacturers of fitness equipment. Using GymKit they can ensure that the fitness device can exchange data with the Apple Watch. So you don’t have to do anything yourself, but you will have to wait for your gym to switch over to equipment that supports it – and that can take some time.

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To implement this, manufacturers must equip their fitness equipment with NFC readers that can exchange data with the Apple Watch. If you’re going to exercise, simply tap your watch against the NFC reader and the devices will exchange data instantly. Integrating data creates a clearer picture of your performance.

GymKit on a treadmill

Many manufacturers have already tried to find a solution to this. For example, Life Fitness already had the LFConnect app, which allows you to sync your iPhone or Android smartphone with fitness equipment. TechnoGym has a similar solution with the Mywellness app. Furthermore, Garmin has tried using wireless ANT+ sensors to exchange data with fitness devices, but this is not widespread. This is because you only need the special accessories equipped with the ANT+ sensor. Only three manufacturers participate: Star Trac, Nautilus and Woodway.

It’s not that everyone already has an Apple Watch, but this makes the solution much easier: if you have an Apple Watch on your wrist, it’s always on.

These manufacturers are involved in GymKit

The special thing about GymKit is that many manufacturers are willing to participate. Apple beat Life Fitness, TechnoGym, Matrix Fitness and others. Together they represent 80% of the equipment used in gyms:

  • Cybex
  • Fitness life
  • Matrix
  • Technogym
  • What’s up?
  • Star Track
  • Stairmaster
  • Nautilus/Octane Fitness
  • Detachment (see below)

Core Health and Fitness has promised to offer GymKit support on OpenHub-enabled cardio devices. This concerns equipment with the brand names Star Trac (mainly treadmills), StairMaster (stair machines), and Schwinn (cycling equipment).

GymKit Apple Watch in gyms

Peloton and GymKit

Peloton announced the Bike+ with GymKit support in the fall of 2020. It’s a bike trainer that costs $2,500 and is only available in Germany, the UK, the US and Canada. You can use this without having to go to the gym. Peloton bikes are intended for home use, where you must become a streaming workout subscriber. By holding your Apple Watch close to an NFC reader, you can sync your workouts to the bike. The watch provides health data from sensors like a heart rate monitor, while the bike knows how hard you pedal and what resistance level you’ve selected.

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Peloton Bike+

It has a 23.8-inch touch screen to follow lessons. You can also rotate the screen 180 degrees. Four speakers provide music and clearly audible instructions from the instructors. Peloton also announced a new treadmill in 2020, but it doesn’t work with GymKit.

When will GymKit be available?

The first GymKit fitness equipment has been appearing in gyms since fall 2017. Matrix Fitness supports GymKit on all 7xi and 7xe consoles, which are used on treadmills, ellipticals, steppers, climbers, and bicycles. Matrix Fitness equipment can be found in the Dutch chain BasicFit, but we have not yet received confirmation that this works. To our knowledge, there are no gyms in the Benelux countries officially announcing GymKit support.

At Life Fitness, only its own brand equipment will have GymKit support initially. Sub-brands such as Cybex and SCIFIT will follow later. At Life Fitness, you’ll find GymKit on Elevation Series cardio equipment, including elliptical trainers, treadmills, stair climbers and bikes. If the device has a Discover SE3 HD controller, it will likely work with GymKit.

GymKit on fitness equipment

Less obvious is TechoGym. They promise that GymKit will be available on “preferred equipment” like treadmills, elliptical machines, stationary bikes, and stair climbers.

Apple Watch bands with activity loops and skateboard

Will things really go that fast?
Well, no. Gyms will not immediately replace all their current fitness equipment with GymKit-friendly models. Especially in smaller local gyms, it may take some time. Although fitness equipment manufacturers are keen to get involved, there is little news from major global chains such as Fit for Free, Basic Fit and LA Fitness. None of them have yet indicated that they would like to start.

It’s easier if gyms only have to replace the controllers and not the entire equipment.

Alternatives to GymKit
Many gyms have their own apps that allow you to track your workouts. This is often combined with a physical key associated with you. These apps connect to specific sports apps, which also forward data to the Health app. It’s an alternative to GymKit, which allows you to hold your Apple Watch against a fitness device without any additional apps or accessories and sync your results with the Activity app.

Technogym key.

Amber Webster

 "Freelance zombie fanatic. Devoted web advocate. Analyst. Writer. Coffee fanatic. Travelaholic. Proud food aficionado."

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