The Apple Watch doesn’t track activity the same way your everyday fitness tracker does, and that has caused some general confusion.
Instead of counting steps or calories, the Apple Watch focuses more on your overall health and well-being. This difference has left some Apple Watch owners baffled at their standing desks when a notification comes through that it’s time to stand; others aren’t sure why workouts they log in other App Store apps don’t show up as a workout in the Activity app. And these are all logical questions.
If you own an Apple Watch and find yourself somewhat perplexed by some of the fitness tracking aspects, follow along and we’ll try and help clear up the confusion!
The Stand ring
The most confusing thing about stand notifications is its misleading name. If you get a stand notification for the hour, what it’s really telling you is that you have not physically moved around. This is why stand notifications tend to arrive 10 minutes before the hour. This gives you a decent chance to still claim that hour. Next time you receive one, leave your standing desk and try walking around for at least 60 seconds.
The Exercise ring
The green ring in the Activity app represents Exercise. A lot of people remain confused about what exactly it’s measuring and what you have to do to meet that goal, so here’s the deal: Apple defines exercise as any activity you perform that is the equivalent of a brisk walk or more. To determine exercise, your Apple Watch looks at your heart rate and movement data. That means that things you do on a regular basis like getting up and walking around your office or taking your dog for a walk probably won’t raise your heart rate enough for the Apple Watch to deem it as exercise.
The exercise metric is meant to encourage you to do more, not simply track the things you do every day. If you find the green ring isn’t moving along as much as you’d like, try something that requires a little more effort and really gets your heart pumping. As with anything, what the Apple Watch considers as exercise will vary from person to person. Someone who isn’t very active will earn exercise for doing things out of the ordinary like going on a long walk. Someone who regularly walks and hits 12,000 steps a day will need to do more than that. Your Apple Watch learns your habits quickly and will want you to push yourself to earn anything extra.
The Move ring
The Apple Watch uses your motion and heart rate data in order to determine calorie counts, which dictate the Move metric of the Activity app. As you continue to wear your Apple Watch it will better learn your habits, average heart rate ranges, and normal activity levels. Theoretically, that means your calorie counts should get more and more accurate as time goes on. It’s still too early to tell how accurate this assumption is, but that’s the general idea.
Apple also breaks out resting calories and active calories. Resting calories are the calories you burn by just living, breathing, and being a human, so to speak. Active calories are the calories you burn going above and beyond that. This is another area where the Apple Watch should get better at breaking out these two types of calories the more you wear it. Just remember that the Move ring is looking at Active calories, not resting calories. This is something most fitness trackers don’t do. So if your calories seem lower on the Apple Watch, this is why.
Health, Workout, and Activity
The Health, Workout, and Activity apps all tie in together but they all serve somewhat different purposes. Check out each section below for some information on each app and how they differ from each other.
The Health app on the iPhone can integrate and be accessed by any App Store app that supports it, such as non-Apple created fitness apps. Your Apple Watch relays the information it collects into Health.app. From here, other apps can access and analyze that data for other uses — if you let them.
Other apps and accessories can also write and read data in the Health app. For instance, Health can pull my sleep data from apps like Lark, and also show heart rate and activity data from my Apple Watch or my iPhone. As long as the app you want to use supports Health and you have granted it access, it will be able to read and write data to it.
The Workout app lives on the Apple Watch. This is Apple’s own native solution to tracking workouts. The options are currently very basic and allow you to choose between a few different indoor and outdoor activities. During your workouts, Workout uses your Apple Watch and motion activity from your iPhone (if available) to gauge distance, calories burned, your heart rate, and other data as accurately as possible. This information is then passed off to the Health app on your iPhone along with the Activity app, which resides on both your iPhone and Apple Watch.
The Activity app is what monitors your move, stand, and exercise data. This is represented on your Apple Watch by the three rings that you work towards completing all day. There is also a more robust version of the Activity app available on your iPhone. This lets you see a more complete picture of your activity, including weekly and monthly overviews. You can also view your achievements and workout data on the Activity app for iPhone.
As for workouts, the only workouts that get imported into Activity (at least at this time) are workouts you have recorded with the Workout app for Apple Watch. That does not mean that the Activity app won’t reflect the calories you burned, distance you went, or exercise you performed while using another app, however. This is particularly true if whatever fitness app you’re using integrates into the Health app.
Since your Apple Watch can pull data from Health.app, any fitness apps that deposit data into the Health app should be taken into consideration when it comes to your overall totals. You just won’t see a workout summary in the Activity app like you do when using the Workout app. Not only that, wearing your Apple Watch in general results in calories being totaled, regardless of what app you’re using.
App Store fitness apps
If you don’t want to use the Workout app, or don’t find it suits your specific needs, there are many fitness apps that are optimized for Apple Watch. And even if the app of your choice isn’t available yet, as long as it integrates into the Health app, any data it collects should be taken into consideration when calculating your overall activity. You just won’t see the breakdown of it in the Activity app; instead, you’ll have to rely on that specific app.