Apple Watch Activity App Gets You Up and Moving

Apple Watch Activity App Gets You Up and Moving

Apple Watch - Activity App
Apple Watch - Activity App. Apple Watch - Activity App

The Apple Watch includes an Activity app that monitors three key components of healthy physical activity and your progress towards your daily goal in each. I've worn and reviewed numerous other fitness bands and pedometer watches. How does the Apple Watch Activity app stack up?

You can see your progress towards achieving all three activity goals on the standard Modular watch display or drill down through Glances and the Activity iPhone app. It works continuously in the background, you don't need to launch it.

The three rings of the Activity display are:

Move: This is a calorie-based goal that estimates the calories you burn in activity. The default setting is 500 calories per day. Within the phone app you can also view your resting calories, active calories and total daily calories. It is interesting that Apple chose this rather than steps as a movement goal, and also enlightening that my leisurely walks might rack up steps but not as many calories as I would hope.

Exercise: This measures your moderate-to-vigorous physical activity minutes. It has a default goal of 30 minutes per day, which matches common exercise recommendations to reduce health risks. In the phone app, you can see your exercise minutes and total active time. If you track exercise sessions with the Workout app, these also appear in the phone app daily summary. This measure radically changed my motivation each day and I looked for ways to achieve exercise minutes in addition to Move calories. It's just what I needed to get me to do more vigorous exercise other than walking at an easy pace.

Stand: The watch knows when you are sitting and standing. The goal is to stand for at least one minute each hour, with a default goal of achieving that for 12 hours during the day. The watch reminds you with a tap and a notification to stand when you have been sitting for almost an hour. This quickly became one of my favorite features as I need inactivity alerts when I am working at the computer. This is an excellent way to combat the health risks of sitting too much.

Steps and Distance: In addition to the rings, the Activity app also shows you your daily step count and total distance walked. I found that the watch was very good at editing out junk steps and random arm motion. What it counted as steps were far more often actually steps compared with the Fitbit Charge HR I wore at the same time.

Apple Watch Activity App on the iPhone

Apple Watch Activity App - iPhone
Apple Watch Activity App - iPhone. Apple - Screen Capture by Wendy Bumgardner

You can see further details of what the Apple Watch Activity app is tracking by launching the Activity app on your iPhone. Data is synced to it continuously from the Apple Watch.

Viewing Your Activity

The three rings are visible at the bottom center of the default watch display. Tap it to view details for each ring and for the step count and distance. You can also view these in Glances and by launching Activity from the app screen. You can see further details in the iPhone Activity app.

Hourly Details: You can view a graph with hourly details for Move, Exercise and Stand. It quickly became a personal goal to not let any waking hour go without a blue line on the Stand graph.

Details and Achievements in iPhone App: You can see even more details within the phone app, which is installed when you activate the Apple Watch. In addition to the hourly graphs and workout details, you earn awards for milestones such as Longest Move Streak, Perfect Week, 7-Workout Week and Personal Record.

Setting New Goals

You can change the goal for Move, Exercise, and Stand by pressing on the watch and raising or lowering the number needed. The Apple Watch will also analyze your weekly activity and suggest a new goal for the next week. I made extra effort to achieve each goal during the first week and so it suggested a new goal of 550 calories to encourage me to do even more the second week.

What Doesn't the Activity App Do?

The Activity app doesn't track individual workouts or use the heart rate monitor unless you track a workout with the Workout App. It doesn't use GPS to measure distance or speed. It doesn't give you a count of stairs or floors you've climbed. It doesn't track sleep or diet.

Is the Apple Watch Activity App Effective?

A survey in July, 2015 by Wristly of approximately 1000 wearers found that 78% of Apple Watch users agree that they stand more and 67% say that they now walk more. They found a very high 89% overall satisfaction with the Activity app.

I have worn countless wrist activity monitors and pedometers and I found the Apple Watch Activity app to be highly motivating to encourage not only walking, but also for getting enough moderate-to-vigorous physical exercise and for sitting less. It was enough to get this jaded pedometer reviewer to buy her own Apple Watch.