Fitness and the Apple Watch
Since it’s launch in April 2015, the Apple Watch has evolved to become one of the wearable market’s leading products, alongside those from Garmin, Fitbit, and Samsung. Encompassing fitness tracking, health, wellness, communications and more, so-called “smartwatches” are believed to be a $25 billion market in 2019. At its launch, health and fitness were a relatively smaller part of the feature mix, but as the Apple Watch and the market have matured, it has become clear that these are massive drivers behind buying and using a smartwatch.
Right out of the box, the feature list is impressive – The Apple Watch can monitor data relating to your heart rate, it can count how many steps you’ve taken and calculate the number of calories you’ve burned whilst doing your workout. It can also help with all manner of different physical activities and improve your wellness by prompting you to take work breaks, stretch your legs or even just remind you to take a deep breath now and again.
As with all Apple products and devices, the AppStore, and the amazing apps made by many independent developers, help the Apple Watch to become more than just stunning hardware. WatchOS companion apps can, in many situations, allow you to leave your iPhone at home as the Apple Watch itself can record all the data you want, help you make calls, play your music and podcasts and even call for help in the event of a fall.
We’ve taken some time to go through the many WatchOS apps available and make 3 recommendations for the best current fitness apps to help you get the most out of your Apple Watch.
Strava (struggle in Swedish) is already the most popular activity tracking and fitness social network app and is available on nearly all mobile platforms.
Strava will track your runs, walks, bike rides and even swims from the Apple Watch app, making it simple to track your efforts over a period to time. It can display all manner of stats – from time, pace, distances travelled and heart rate, live on screen as you go, helping you to go faster and further every time you train. There are also monthly challenges and the ability to compete with others to open a new and different dimension to your training routines.
It’s a free app to download but for extra features, more in-depth statistical measurements and data logging then there are various subscription membership fee levels or ‘packs’ on offer from £2.99 per month.
Download Strava for free
To go hand-in-hand with apps like Strava, MyFitnessPal is the most popular dietary tracking companion. The app makes it easy to record your food intake, and in return, it provides clear information on how many calories you’ve remaining of your daily allowance. It helpfully breaks down your intake in to the key macro-nutrients, protein, carbs, and fats and can also factor in how many calories you’ve used in your daily workouts. It’s a well-known maxim that you can’t out-train a bad diet, so MyFitness Pal and its massive library of foods, combined with its ease of use, are a real help with the nutritional side of getting fitter.
Like Strava, it’s a free app but the premium features are unlocked with a £7.99 a month subscription.
Download MyFitnessPal for free
The app lets you plan your gym sessions in advance, helping you determine which muscles or groups you wish to work on, and how hard you want to push yourself during your session. Gentle reminders and nudges help ensure you stay true to the plan, like a personal trainer on your wrist. The app’s other killer-feature is the ability to visually guide you through each exercise in the library, making sure you get the most out of each rep and helping to prevent those niggling strains or injuries.
The app can operate independently on the Apple Watch to record your gym sessions, which means you can leave your iPhone safely in your locker or at home whilst you hit the gym.
The app has a one week, free trial period, then there are monthly subscription tiers for the “Pro” version offering more, in-depth features.
Download Gymaholic for free
But what about the Apple Health app?
Think of the app as your health hub, the centre of operations and the one-stop place to view your health records. Everything comes together in one place, gathering data from your fitness trackers, iPhone, Watch and any fitness apps that you use too. Apple Health then collates all of this and offers you a quick snapshot of what you’ve done so you don’t have to open up a whole bunch of different apps to review it.
Viewing your data
The front end for the Apple Health app is called ‘Health Data’ and breaks down your health into four defined, key areas – Activity, Mindfulness, Nutrition, and Sleep. Within each of these categories are a wealth of secondary data which includes everything from your body measurements, health records, vital statistics and so on.
These four areas within Apple Health are very detailed. The Activity section is the most populated of all of these. It contains data in two main areas, one which details the current day so far and the second area which gives you a graphical representation of the entire year.
The second major area is the Nutrition section which, if you’ve been tracking your food intake, will offer a breakdown of how much carbs, caffeine, fibre, and protein etc. that you’ve consumed, amongst others. There are many apps, like MyFitnessPal discussed earlier, which feeds data into Apple Health but there are many others to choose which might be more relevant to you if you were on a weight loss program.
Sleep is the third section, which is less detailed than the others above but if you were looking to specifically track sleep metrics, there are third-party hardware products available as well as Apps for the Apple Watch, such as Pillow, as the Watch doesn’t natively track sleep by itself.
Finally, their last section is Mindfulness which harvests its data from the Apple Watch and a number of third-party applications. It is designed to help you decompress and stay centred throughout the day and is a great way to relieve stress and improve your general sense of well-being. This is an area that some would argue is overlooked and with the stressful nature of modern life, is an area we might all start to pay more attention toward.
The Apple Watch then, is far more than a digital timepiece. The flexibility of new apps, alongside the improved hardware with each new version that is released, continue to add more and more functionality and the resulting information (saved locally to your own devices, a key part of the appeal of Apple hardware and software) can really help people to live better, healthier and even happier lives through quantified, personal data.
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