How to connect your Apple Watch to gym equipment with Apple GymKit

Apple Watch
(Image credit: Kanut Photo / Shutterstock)

Over time, the Apple Watch has evolved to become a pretty dependable fitness tracking companion. Its onboard heart rate monitor is one of the best in the business at tracking your heart during exercise from the wrist. Its water resistant design and swim tracking skills makes it one of the best smartwatches to jump in the water with and it’s a pretty good performer back on land when you need to go for a run or a ride.

In more recent years, Apple has sought to make its smartwatch more useful when you take that exercising action indoors. Before Apple Fitness Plus arrived on the scene, there was GymKit. The software addition for the Watch landed in 2017 in watchOS 4, offering the ability to connect the smartwatch to compatible connected gym equipment.

The benefit being you can combine the tracking done by the gym equipment with the more reliable tracking skills of the Apple Watch to get a better overall picture of your workout. So, on a treadmill, it can take the speed and distance covered metrics and match it with the heart rate data generated by the Apple Watch, which can also be displayed by the GymKit-friendly machine.

If you like the idea of using your Apple Watch and GymKit to more accurately record your workouts indoors, we break down how to set up your Apple Watch to make it happen and outline where you can find GymKit equipment to start putting it to work.

Which Apple Watches are compatible with GymKit?

Before you get going, you will need to make sure you own an Apple Watch from Series 2 to the latest Series 6 and the SE. That needs to be running on watchOS 4.0 or later. If it’s not been updated to the latest version of Apple’s smartwatch operating system, you can check our guide on how to get watchOS 7 on your Apple Watch to get it up to date.

What equipment does GymKit work with?

Since the announcement of GymKit in 2017, the list of manufacturers that have confirmed they’ve built or are building equipment that supports it has started to grow. That list now includes the following:

  • Technogym 
  • Life Fitness
  • Matrix 
  • Stairmaster
  • Startrac
  • Octane Fitness 
  • True Fitness
  • Woodway
  • Peloton

Where can you buy GymKit-enabled equipment?

This is a very good question. If you head to the websites of most of these brands, it’s hard to find the equipment you can have in your home that works with GymKit.

The highest profile machine you can buy right now is the Peloton Bike+, which was announced in September last year. The support enables Bike+ users to make use of the Apple Watch’s heart rate monitor to track effort levels during classes and workouts.

It seems the best way to access supported equipment right now is to sign up to a gym that has them installed. In the UK, Virgin Active has installed Technogym machines inside some gyms in London and it’s done the same for FitnessFirst gyms in Australia. In the US, both Technogym and Life Fitness have their GymKit-friendly machines installed in gyms in New York. There have also been rollouts in Canada and the UAE.

To boost the presence of GymKit-enabled machines, Apple announced its Apple Watch Connected program in January last year with Orangetheory, Basecamp Fitness, YMCA and Crunch Fitness gym chains. The program is aimed at encouraging gym-goers to use the Apple Watch and iPhones to track workouts to unlock perks and rewards. Part of the program involved asking participating gym chains to offer GymKit equipment to help do that.

Apple Watch GymKit with Peloton

(Image credit: Peloton)

How to set up GymKit on Apple Watch

So you’ve got your Apple Watch on your wrist and updated and identified that the machine you’re about to use connects to the Apple Watch.

The first thing you need to do is go to your Apple Watch and go into Settings. Look for Workout and scroll down until you find a setting called Detect Gym Equipment. You’ll want this toggled on. This is the quickest way to establish a connection.

If this is disabled, you can also open up the Workout app as you normally would to start workout tracking and holding the Apple Watch near the compatible equipment.

Hold the Watch a few centimeters away from the reader with the display facing the reader. You’ll know a connection has been made when you feel a gentle tap and hear a beep on your Watch.

To start tracking, start the workout on the machine to spark the tracking into action. When you’re done, end the workout on the machine. The data will be synced to the Workout app and can also be found inside of the Fitness app on your iPhone.

What does GymKit equipment do with your data?

If you're concerned about what happens with their fitness data when you connect your Watch to equipment that supports GymKit, this is something outlined in Apple’s GymKit & Privacy information.

Once your workout is completed, the data is saved in the Workout app and then you’ll need to remove the connection from the machine. That privacy information does reveal that manufacturers may retain data from your workout. So that’s something to keep in mind if you’re using it at your local gym and don’t like the idea of sharing that data.

Michael Sawh

Michael is a freelance journalist who has covered consumer technology for over a decade and specializes in wearable and fitness tech. Previously editor of Wareable, he also co-ran the features and reviews sections of T3, and has a long list of bylines in the world of consumer tech sites.

With a focus on fitness trackers, headphones, running wearables, phones, and tablet, he has written for numerous publications including Wired UK, GQ, Men's Fitness, BBC Science Focus, Metro and Stuff, and has appeared on the BBC Travel Show. Michael is a keen swimmer, a runner with a number of marathons under his belt, and is also the co-founder of YouTube channel The Run Testers.