Apple is now launching a new program, Apple Watch Connected, that will give members of partner gyms and health clubs an integrated wearable experience for their workouts. This means people will be able to use the Watch for simple tasks like check-in and booking classes, but the ultimate goal of the program is ramping up the partner gyms' membership engagement and retention by providing some real, tangible rewards for tracking their training.

For a gym to qualify for the program, it must offer its members an app, some type of incentive program using the Apple Watch, GymKit-connected equipment (which allows users to sync directly with an Apple Watch), and accept Apple Pay. If a partner has its own specialized equipment or programming, GymKit gear isn't required.

Your Apple Watch Could Reward You for Your Workout
Your Apple Watch Could Reward You for Your Workout
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The first four partners of the program at launch represent a wide range within the health and fitness space. Orangetheory (which debuted its own Apple Watch-connected device and instructor apps for its heart rate-based workout classes late last year ) is a tech-heavy, concept-driven class experience; Basecamp Fitness (owned by Anytime Fitness) is a boutique interval training gym; the YMCA is a community-based membership organization that bills itself as the "largest fitness brand in the world" (the program will launch first at the St. Paul Midway location in Minnesota); and Crunch Fitness is a classic big-box chain. All of these programs will start on a small scale today at a few select locations before rolling out more broadly in the coming year.

A look at Crunchs incentive program.
A look at Crunchs incentive program.
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Each gym's Apple Watch Connected offering varies, but they will all offer a proprietary app for the iPhone and Watch, an Earn with Watch program, and Apple Pay. The incentive program will be where you'll find variation to fit each brand. Orangetheory members can earn gift cards for their activity, while Basecamp gives its participants the ability to "earn back" the value of an Apple Watch over a year period if they attend three classes per week. YMCA will create "Move for Good" community challenges to support local initiatives, and Crunch will allow members to knock $12 to $15 off their monthly dues if they hit activity goals. Some of these incentive programs won't require users to hit their goals at the physical location of the gyms themselvesas long as people are tracking some type of activity using the Watch, they'll be rewarded.

By pushing further into gyms and health clubs as a featured app, rather than just a background third-party, Apple gets to expose the Watch to a wider audience and keep its consumer base engaged. Meanwhile, Apple Watch Connected partner gyms get an added value proposition that could also help to keep people sweating and, more importantly, more likely to keep up their membership. And gym members finally get tangible credit for their workouts.