We have been reviewing online fitness programs for eight years. For our most recent update, we spent 500+ hours over the course of four months testing each fitness program and gauging how well each company stays in contact and responds to questions.
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1. FitFusion: Best online fitness training program overall
FitFusion by Jillian Michaels is your gateway to multiple workouts targeted at helping you achieve a range of body goals, from toning and shaping to strength building and weight loss. Jillian is very empowering when it comes to helping you feel good about your body, and strives to help people feel stronger and happier.
Exercise is a good way to achieve this, especially in conjunction with a healthy diet, and there are plenty of fun yet effective workouts to be found on FitFusion.
If you have used any Jillian Michaels home workout DVDs in the past, some of the workout series on FitFusion will be familiar to you – we’re talking about the likes of Yoga Meltdown and Ripped In 30. These are all available when you take out a subscription to the online workout site. It costs $9.99 a month or $89.99 a year, and offers a free seven-day trial.
There are celebrity trainers on here too, including yoga superstar Tara Stiles, but there is no option to contact a personal trainer or pay extra for that level of guidance. You’ll have to structure your own workout routine, and find your diet and nutrition advice elsewhere. Still, if you like Jillian’s no-nonsense approach to training, there’s much to enjoy here.
2. Daily Burn
Daily Burn is a well-rounded fitness service with over 20 workout programs, which makes it one of the most comprehensive online fitness services, though it lacks workouts for seniors. Once you choose a workout program, Daily Burn guides you through a helpful schedule, though you can watch workout videos outside of the schedule as well.
Unlike many other top fitness services we looked at, Daily Burn has a full suite of apps for smartphones as well as streaming devices like the Apple TV, Chromecast and Roku. Regardless of which device you use, the apps have a simple interface that makes them very easy to use.
Daily Burn's least expensive plan costs around $15, which is more expensive than most other online fitness services. However, we think that this service is an excellent value for the price, especially since it doesn't require a contract like many gym memberships. There's also a more expensive plan that unlocks extra workouts and features.
When you sign up for a plan, Daily Burn has you fill out a brief questionnaire to help determine which programs and goals you should pursue. The service also helps you improve your diet and nutrition through a variety of plans and recipes. During our testing, we contacted Daily Burn and received answers within 30 minutes, though we weren't able to contact the company over the telephone
- Read our Daily Burn review
3. Hitch Fit
Hitch Fit creates specialized workout programs based on your body type, diet and personal habits. This site is designed to help you reach specific goals for fitness or special events, such as weight loss, building muscle, competing in a physique competition or preparing for your wedding.
It also has options for gluten free and vegetarian diet plans. Hitch Fit provides you with personal coaching, weekly feedback, training DVDs and printed guides. It has a YouTube channel, but you can’t access videos directly from the website. For on-the-go subscribers, the site’s biggest drawback is that it doesn’t have a mobile app.
It’s also lacking an efficient way to track your personal stats, but you can count on a weekly email from your Hitch Fit trainer for motivation and support. The site also has a Facebook group and a blog. Program participation can be expensive, but once you purchase a plan, you own its workout videos.
- Read our Hitch Fit review
- Read our FitFusion review
4. Train Online
Train Online's numerous videos and extensive information are a big reason we chose this as the best value in online fitness services. The videos are well-crafted to help you understand exactly what to do, and the company posts new videos on a weekly basis.
The service's printable workout plans have illustrations that show you what muscle groups each exercise targets. You can also choose to up the difficulty on your workouts as you reach your fitness goals to keep pushing yourself. Train Online is the least expensive service we looked at, and it has no contract, so you can cancel anytime without paying a penalty.
You can track your progress on the Train Online website by inputting a variety of statistics as you work out, which then show up in a graph to show you how far you've come. Although you can expect to get a personal trainer to respond to your fitness questions, we found that Train Online takes a little longer to answer questions than most of the services we tested.
This makes it a good option if you're interested in directing your own training and don't need extensive one-on-one feedback. The service doesn't have an accompanying mobile app or specific nutrition guides, which is disappointing; company’s emphasis is clearly on its excellent workout programs.
5. Jillian Michaels
This workout program is great if you've really never tried working out before and don't know what you want.
Jillian Michaels has the approach of a tough personal trainer, which can be a great way to kick your weight-loss journey into high gear. The program has several levels of workouts, and your daily workouts are customized to your body and lifestyle. It emphasizes interval cardio training and toning, but it doesn't get boring because the workouts include Pilates, martial arts, weightlifting and other forms of physical activity.
The program also has diet-and-nutrition planning, which can be really helpful if you've never done meal planning or counted calories. The program is also available in an app, so you can see, right on your phone, how you're progressing. There's also a bonus seven-day free trial to let you decide whether this is the kind of workout program you want.
6. iBody Fit
iBodyFit has the most comprehensive selection of workout programs among the online fitness services we reviewed. There are over 400 workout videos in a variety of categories, such as aerobics, Pilates and machine workouts, among others.
The range of options lets you try new workouts or stick with your favorites, depending on your fitness needs. You can view these videos from a web browser; iBodyFit doesn't have a dedicated mobile app, which is a little surprising. There is also a big selection of diet plans to help you pair healthy eating with your workout.
The company has a variety of personal trainer plans as well as some less-expensive workout-only plans. Of the personal training plans, all allow you to get personalized feedback, and we generally got answers within about an hour. However, you need to register for the most expensive plan to get access to VIP feedback, where you can get instant feedback to questions about your workout.
You can track your personal progress on the iBodyFit website by inputting basic measurements such as your weight, waist and bicep size. iBodyFit is as affordable as most gym memberships, except that you can cancel anytime, though it's one of the more expensive online fitness services we reviewed.
How we reviewed the best online fitness programs
We spent 500+ hours over the course of four months testing each fitness program we reviewed for this update. As with most other services we review, our tests didn't involve physical testing as much tracking what each service offers and how well our interactions with each company went.
We focused on services that employ certified personal trainers and put an emphasis on physical fitness. Although many of the fitness services we reviewed offer dietary advice and helpful recipes, we didn't include weight-loss programs that only focus on dieting or counting calories.
During our evaluation process, we recorded how often the companies contacted us, how frequently they responded to our emails and the helpfulness of their responses. Online fitness companies that actively work to keep customers motivated and on track with the exercise regime without swamping us with emails earned higher scores in our comparison.
We also favored fitness services that answered questions thoroughly and promptly. Because getting fit or staying in shape is not the same process for everyone, there's a good chance you'll contact your fitness service with specific questions regarding your personal health. Companies that responded to our questions quickly with individualized advice earned higher scores in our comparison.
Most of the companies we reviewed offered valuable insights in response to our questions. For example, WorkoutBOX was very efficient and helpful in its communication with us, ultimately receiving a perfect score for customer service. However, while all services sent an automatic response stating our question would be answered shortly, some companies had poor follow-through, declining to answer our questions or failing to respond at all.
Why exercise with the best online fitness programs?
Fewer than 5 percent of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity a day according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. On top of that, data from 2009 to 2010 indicates more than 78 million U.S. adults and about 12.5 million children and adolescents are obese.
If you don't want to be a part of those statistics, working out can have both mental and physical health benefits. Staying physically fit through workout programs and apps can boost the good cholesterol in your body, otherwise known as high-density lipoprotein.
According to the Mayo Clinic, this paired with a decrease in triglycerides lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease. Working out regularly can also help prevent stroke, depression, type 2 diabetes and arthritis.
Working out can also have long term benefits for your family. Children who see their parents being active are more likely to be active themselves, and the earlier the habit is started, the better. Former President Barack Obama established a Task Force on Childhood Obesity in 2010 with the aim of eliminating childhood obesity.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" campaign was also a part of that, and according to HHS only one in three kids is physically active every day. It's important for your children to develop good attitudes and habits when it comes to working out and watching you – their parents, mentors and friends – take the time to get up and move with an online exercise program or app is a big part of that.
Choosing the best online fitness program for you
While choosing from among the best online fitness programs, pay attention to the services each company offers. Most of the companies we reviewed have various workout programs you can follow, so look for those that align with your goals. If you have special needs, such as post-pregnancy exercises, or a preferred workout like yoga or Pilates, look for a fitness service that offers those in addition to other workouts.
Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing the best online fitness program for your health and fitness goals...
Online fitness services structure pricing in many ways. Some sites charge a monthly fee, while others bill you for programs or workout plans in a lump sum. We found that monthly costs range from $9.95 to $99, and with customized workout plans ranging from around $250 to $700 and more.
Selection of workouts
Every service we reviewed offers standalone workout videos, enabling you to hop into a single exercise video that catches your eye. This allows you to watch workout videos at any time without having to sign up for an additional plan or program. With this option, you can do workouts on top of your existing routine, or you can customize your own workout routine, allowing you to choose and develop your own exercises.
Do they offer a personal trainer, and do you need one?
Depending on the plan you choose, you may have the option of working with a personal trainer who contacts you regularly throughout the fitness regimen so you can ask them questions, get direct feedback and continually adapt your fitness needs. This can help motivate and encourage you to stay on track and in shape.
Do you get access to nutritional advice?
If you’re looking for a holistic approach on your journey to getting fit, choose a service that offers nutrition guides and recipes so you can eat properly before and after workouts. This can help you follow a diet that meets your needs and complements your fitness regime.
What goal tracking do they offer
Whether it's a simple progress bar or accomplishment badges, goal tracking is a useful motivational tool for improving your overall fitness.
Does the online fitness program have an app and desktop?
If you travel often or don't always have an internet connection, consider an online fitness training program that has a companion mobile app or downloadable videos. If you plan is to work out at home, a service that streams workout videos is a good option.
The best online fitness programs vs gyms
Joining a gym might appear to be the most effective way to lose weight or stay in shape, but that's not always the case. While gyms do have various machines and weights for use, they can also be crowded and intimidating. You also have to sign up for specific periods of time, and can't cancel as easily as you can with the best online fitness programs.
According to The Guardian, some consumer surveys have put the gym drop-out rate at more than 80 percent in the first eight weeks of signing up. Working out at home with an online fitness service means there’s no awkward locker room talk and no waiting for your favorite machine to become available.
One way to see which online fitness program is right for you is to look at the before and after photos. If a company doesn’t provide any, we’d recommend looking elsewhere. While the companies we reviewed are all above-board, make sure the photos you’re seeing aren’t digitally altered or changed in any way. Better yet, look for customer testimonials and see what results others have achieved.
In order to be successful with an online fitness program, you'll need to incorporate good nutrition. Many good programs include this element, and we don't recommend services that simply focus on burning calories.