(Pocket-lint) – GymKit is the latest technology to come out of Apple. It, as the name suggests, allows Apple Watch users to connect to various bits of kit at the gym. But what does it do, how does it work, and what kit will wit work with?
We’ve used one of the first installations of GymKit in the UK to find out how Apple hopes it could change the way you exercise in the future forever.
What is GymKit?
GymKit is an Apple technology that allows customers to connect their Apple Watch with GymKit enabled cardio equipment including treadmills, ellipticals, indoor bikes, or stair steppers from global manufacturers such as Life Fitness and TechnoGym.
How does GymKit work?
It’s incredibly simple. Working in a similar way to Apple Pay, Apple Watch users walk up to an GymKit enabled device and simply tap their watch on a specific point. Once they’ve “tapped in” data can securely flow between the two devices, and in practice it works just as described. The watch buzzes to let you know you’ve paired the two devices together and from there until you finish your work out you are synced with the machine.
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Once the equipment and Apple Watch are paired, they will continually communicate to one another, with no need for additional downloads or complicated on-screen navigation.
From the Apple Watch the gym equipment gets things like your age, height, weight, and heart rate. From the gym equipment, the Apple Watch gets a host of information like incline, pace, RPM on the bike, or stairs climbed, something up until now the Watch hasn’t been able to track.
The system allows data such as heart rate, calories burned, distance, speed and incline to be communicated wirelessly between devices.
By syncing the two together it means that users should get the most accurate measurements possible without really having to worry about anything more than just tapping-in with their watch.
It also means you can see all the data on the massive screen in front of you while you run rather than having to constantly looking at your watch. although you can still do that if you want.
Cleverly, you don’t have to do the pairing at the beginning of your training session either. You can pair the two devices together at any time during the work out although you must be in an active workout. Even if you do it at the end, any data you’ve recorded during your workout will be synced right back to the start of the exercise. That’s really handy if you’ve been chatting and forgotten to tap in at the start.
Is GymKit secure?
One of the biggest concerns we had when Apple announced GymKit was that it’s a quick and easy way for all those involved to scrape your data, how fast your running, how healthy you are, and other gems of information. The good news is that the data remains private to you throughout the experience. With nobody but you, getting access to the data.
The syncing/pairing is automatically broken when you hit the stop button on the equipment or if you break the Bluetooth connection between the two devices.
Do you need a separate app?
No. The GymKit ready device will merely start a workout automatically for you on your Watch and start and then eventually stop (including pause) the workout as you train. At the end, you’ll get all the relevant information you would expect from running outside, including elevation. In the iPhone Activity app, you’ll also get a logo to say what kit you ran on like TechnoGym for example.
What kit works with GymKit?
TechnoGym is currently the only manufacturer with kit actually in gyms. TechnoGym kit that supports GymKit includes the company’s Excite, Artis and Personal ranges, although you’ll need to check with your local gym whether or not they’ve upgraded. In some cases, it’s a software update, in others it’s a new module that needs to be fitted to the equipment.
TechnoGym aren’t the only manufacturers supporting Apple’s new tech offering. Life Fitness, Matrix, and TechnoGym have both promised GymKit enabled equipment in the coming months. It means some 80 per cent of the gym equipment market will be covered.
In June Life Fitness said that connectivity with Apple Watch would be available later in 2017, presumably that’s now 2018, on Discover SE3 HD Tablet consoles, the company’s premium cardio console.
Matrix cardio equipment supported by Apple Watch includes the 7xi and 7xe consoles for treadmills; Ascent Trainers; suspension ellipticals; ClimbMills; and upright, recumbent and hybrid exercise bikes.
Apple is also partnering with other gym equipment specialists including Cybex, Star Trac, Schwinn and StairMaster, but Technogym is the first to market in a gym you can train in.
When’s GymKit coming to my gym?
In the UK, the first gym to offer GymKit enabled equipment is Virgin Active Mansion House, a collection club in the heart of London City, while in Australia it’s Fitness First in Sydney and Melbourne. A New York GymKit ready gym opens in late December.
In the UK Virgin Active says that it is looking at rolling GymKit out to its other 41 clubs across the UK, however Andy Birch, Product and Fitness Director at Virgin Active told Pocket-lint the firm can’t yet confirm what gyms will be next and when that will happen. Other gym chains like Fitness First, Pure Gym, or David Lloyd haven’t confirmed whether they will be offering GymKit enabled kit.
Pocket-lint tested a TechnoGym treadmill at the Virgin Active club in the UK. The bottom line is that it’s very simple and almost invisible. Simply tap in to the piece of equipment you are using and then start your workout. All the data is instantly synced from the watch to the huge display so you can see it at a glance, and that includes active and total calories as well as your heart rate. No more holding on to the metal bars as you try to keep running.
The fact that you can get a constant heart rate measurement without wearing a chest strap will appeal to many and we can see cardio training whereby you’re running at a certain heart rate threshold much easier in the future.