DIGITAL HEALTH AND FITNESS SUPERGUIDE
PC Magazine|January 2022
Looking to lose weight, lower your stress level, sleep better, or boost your immunity? We’ve tested plenty of smart health and fitness products and apps to help you meet your goals.
ANGELA MOSCARITOLO

Navigating life amid a global pandemic for nearly two years has left many of us frazzled and sluggish. If you’re emotionally and physically drained, tech can help: There’s no shortage of connected technologies that promise to help you sleep better, manage your stress, and boost your mood. Fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, the smart health and fitness market—which includes everything from connected home gym equipment and meditation apps to wearable wellness gadgets and Wi-Fi-enabled bathroom scales—shows no signs of slowing down.

It’s not an exaggeration to say these technologies can be a true blessing. When gyms across the country shut down, smart fitness devices helped many of us stay sane at home in quarantine (myself included). Whether you’re looking to work up a sweat, calm down your racing mind, get more sleep, or improve your nutrition, these products and apps can help you meet your goals.

But with so many options to choose from, it can be tough to narrow them down, and that’s where we come in. At PCMag, our mission is to help you make the most informed buying decisions, which is why we exhaustively test every product and analyze its strengths, weaknesses, and value compared with the competition.

As PCMag’s fitness expert (and a yoga teacher), I get to review all the latest smart health technologies, and some of the recent innovations I’ve seen are truly impressive. But not every product is a winner, and not every good product is the right fit for everyone.

For this story, we’re gathering some of the best health and fitness products and software you can use right now, and we’re taking a look at some of the more promising technologies on the horizon. If a product catches your eye, be sure to check out its full review on PCMag.com.

SMART HOME GYM EQUIPMENT

Not a huge fan of the gym, or just too lazy to get your butt out of bed and travel there in the morning? Or maybe you’re less than comfortable with the idea of breathing heavily in a confined public space.

No worries. Thanks to the plethora of smart home fitness equipment available today, you don’t need to go to the gym to get lean and make gains. But what makes fitness equipment smart, and why pay extra for it? At the most basic level, smart home gym equipment connects to the internet. Most machines have a screen to stream workouts, but some work with a companion app to let you view classes on your phone or TV.

Smart fitness machines are far from cheap. Most of our favorites cost at least $1,000. High-end treadmills such as the NordicTrack Commercial 2950 are among the priciest, and can easily run you $3,000 or more. And when you’re budgeting for a smart fitness machine, don’t forget to include the membership fee in your calculations. They all require a subscription, typically $29 to $39 per month, to access workout classes and other premium features.

For their high cost, though, smart fitness devices allow for a whole other level of interactivity than their more affordable, non-connected counterparts. Most offer large on-demand libraries of guided classes with knowledgeable instructors or customized workouts and programs based on your goals and current fitness level—or both. Many machines also feature live classes with competitive leaderboards, giving you extra motivation to run, row, or cycle your way to victory. This also fosters a sense of community, making it feel like you’re not working out alone. And if you’re new to the world of fitness or just getting back into it after a period of inactivity, rest assured that many of the latest machines offer beginner-friendly workouts and guidance for newbies.

In 2020, the Peloton Bike+ ($2,495) was in a league of its own compared with other smart exercise bikes. In 2021, we found a competitor that stacks up: the SoulCycle At-Home Bike ($2,500). Featuring a sleek and sturdy steel frame with a 21.5-inch touch screen, its heart-pumping, inspirational classes will have you sweating as you work to master choreography moves while simultaneously spinning the pedals beneath your feet to the beat of music. Whereas the Peloton Bike+ motivates you through metrics and competition, SoulCycle offers a more meditative, dance-focused experience. Both bikes give you access to a range of floor-based workouts to supplement your cycling sessions, but as an added bonus, the SoulCycle AtHome Bike also supports Disney+ and Netflix.

If you’re not into cycling, or find it to be a literal pain in the butt (a problem newbies encounter with any stationary bike; padded shorts help), there are plenty of other options. Our favorites for cardio include the Peloton Tread ($2,495), the best connected treadmill for small spaces; FightCamp ($1,219 for the Personal package), a connected home boxing gym that tracks your punches in real time and nudges you to reach a specific goal; and the NordicTrack RW900 rowing machine ($1,599), which stands out for its library of outdoor, trainer-led workouts filmed on waterways around the world.

If you’re looking to make gains, we suggest the Tempo Studio ($2,495) and Tonal ($2,995), two smart strength-training machines. They both feature large touch screens on which you can browse and play workouts led by experienced instructors who walk you through each move. It’s like having a full gym’s worth of strength-training equipment—and a virtual personal trainer—in your home. Both keep track of how much weight you should be lifting, count your reps, and offer feedback about your form. They offer plenty of classes, including beginner-friendly workouts and programs.

Finally, if you’re more into bodyweight exercises such as yoga and pilates, check out the Mirror ($1,495) and the touch-screen Echelon Reflect ($1,739.98 for the 50-inch model). Both are particularly compelling if you’re short on space, as they can be mounted to a wall and look like regular mirrors when not in use. During a class, you can see the instructor as well as your own reflection in the mirror, which makes it easy to check your form.

SOULCYCLE AT-HOME BIKE

$2,500.00

With a focus on riding in step with the beat of music while working to master choreography moves, the SoulCycle AtHome Bike offers fun and challenging workouts that combine cardio and strength training with elements of dance and meditation.

PELOTON BIKE+ $2,495.00

With a rotating screen and a new Auto Follow feature for automatic resistance adjustments, the Peloton Bike+ is a compelling upgrade over its predecessor, and the best smart indoor cycling bike you can buy.

PELOTON BIKE $2,245.00

If you can afford it, the Peloton Bike brings a high-tech spin class right to your home with sleek hardware, streaming live classes, and integration with your favorite fitness apps.

MYX FITNESS $1,299.00

It doesn’t have live classes and leaderboards, but MYX Fitness is an excellent and competitively priced Peloton Bike alternative that focuses on personalized heart rate zone training.

PELOTON TREAD $2,495.00

With the same top-notch workout classes and a smaller design, the Peloton Tread is a more practical and wallet-friendly version of its problematic larger sibling, and the best connected treadmill for small spaces.

NORDICTRACK COMMERCIAL 2950 TREADMILL $2,999.00

The NordicTrack Commercial 2950 is hefty in size and price, but it’s one of the most sophisticated treadmills on the market, with a vast iFit streaming workout library and the ability to automatically adjust your incline and speed.

FIGHTCAMP $1,219.00

FightCamp is a connected home boxing gym that offers hundreds of on-demand classes on your phone or tablet. Its unique punch-tracking technology keeps you motivated to get the most out of your workouts.

NORDICTRACK RW900 $1,699.00

With its 22-inch HD touch screen and vast library of outdoor, studio, and Google Maps-based iFit workouts, the NordicTrack RW900 rowing machine is an excellent choice for beginner, intermediate, and advanced rowers alike.

TEMPO STUDIO $2,495.00

With its sophisticated formtracking and rep-counting software, challenging ondemand and live classes, and excellent trainers, the Tempo Studio is the best smart strength training machine we’ve tested.

TONAL $2,995.00

The Tonal system isn’t cheap, but it’s like having a full gym’s worth of strength training equipment—and a virtual personal trainer—in your home.

MIRROR $1,495.00

The Mirror is an interactive fitness device that’s like having your own private gym. With thousands of classes to choose from, you can exercise in the comfort of your home without sacrificing a lot of space.

ECHELON REFLECT $1,639.98

The Echelon Reflect is an attractive touch-screen workout mirror offering a wide range of live and on-demand classes for boxing, cardio, conditioning, meditation, pilates, strength, stretching, yoga, and Zumba.

AVIRON $2,199.00

Featuring immersive games, fun competitions, and YouTube, the Aviron smart rowing machine successfully combats workout boredom and will leave you excited to get back on day after day.

HYDROW $2,199.00

Combining top-of-the-line equipment with live streaming workouts, the Hydrow is expensive, but it’s one of the most luxurious smart rowing machines you can buy.

CITYROW GO MAX $2,195.00

The Cityrow Go Max is an attractive smart water rower that offers fun and effective trainer-led classes that use metrics to motivate you, and combines intervals on and off the machine for a full-body burn.

WORKOUT APPS AND STREAMING SERVICES

Most people don’t have a few thousand extra dollars to drop on a smart fitness machine. Fortunately, there are plenty of affordable (or free!) workout apps and streaming services that can help you along, whether you’re a beginner just starting your fitness journey or a seasoned athlete looking to start a new training schedule or spice up your routine.

FitOn and Nike Training Club are two excellent resources when you’re on a tight budget. FitOn offers free on-demand workout videos with celebrity trainers, including Julianne Hough and Jonathan Van Ness, and it supports heart rate monitors so you can compete on leaderboards with other participants. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nike removed the subscription fee for its Training Club app, which features a wide selection of workouts ranging from less than 20 minutes to an hour, including boxing, HIIT, strength, yoga, and more.

Some of our favorite paid options include Apple Fitness+, Openfit, and Forte. Fitness+ is a compelling at-home and on-the-go workout companion for Apple Watch users, featuring a variety of studio-style classes with excellent music and instruction you can stream on your iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV. It offers floorbased workouts such as core, dance, HIIT, strength, and yoga, which require just a set of dumbbells or no equipment at all. It can also guide you at the gym, with structured cycling, rowing, strength, and treadmill workouts.

If you already own an Apple Watch and an iPhone, monthly access to Fitness+ costs less than a single class at most fitness studios. For $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year, it offers a steady stream of heart-pumping 5- to 45-minute classes featuring high-quality playlists and a diverse set of instructors who will help you stay motivated to close your Apple Watch activity rings day after day.

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