Apple Fitness is Apple’s exercise tracking app. The Apple Fitness app on its own doesn’t do much. It works on your iPhone, it only shows the current day’s activity. But when paired with an Apple Watch (and possibly some fitness equipment), it really does achieve a lot. It motivates you to keep fit.
You can read two articles I wrote last year to learn more about it. The first tells us how you decided to try to meet the activity goals for a month as a New Year’s resolution. The second, written a year later, tells us how I used my Apple Watch and Apple Fitness to stay on track and achieve my fitness goals every day for a year.
So there is your social proof. I’ve worked out on and off my whole life, but even on the days I went to the gym and worked with a personal trainer, my best result was three workouts a week. But Apple Fitness paired with the Apple Watch has made me do it every single time. single. day. to. year.
Three rings to judge them all
First, just to prevent confusion, there is no Apple Fitness app on the Apple Watch. Instead, the Apple Watch tracks your overall activity using its internal sensors. There is a Workout app that helps you tell your Apple Watch (and thus, Apple Fitness) when you’re working out and what kind of exercise you’re doing.
There is also an activity app that helps you check the status of your episodes. At the heart of the entire system are three rings that are demonic in their simplicity and effectiveness. The red ring is the motion ring. This tracks your general movement throughout the day. The green ring is the exercise ring. This keeps track of your assigned workout time. And the blue ring tracks how many times you stand throughout the day.
Movement is measured in calories. You can select how many calories you want to burn each day, and the red ring will slowly close throughout the day as you burn calories. I like this a lot because you get points for going up and down stairs, moving things around the workshop, eating lunch in the kitchen, and anything else that is a tangible activity.
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There were times when I wanted to put off doing something because I wasn’t just in the mood, but since I needed to close my red throat, so I jumped at it because I wasn’t about to lose points for a day for not closing the ring.
Workouts are measured by a wide range of exercise types in the Workout app. You can find a list of exercise types on this Apple page. Workouts are measured by tracking the clock movements on your body as well as your heart rate. I’ve found that the app tracks walking and cycling well (I don’t run or dance, so I haven’t tested them), but a bit poor at tracking weightlifting. Sometimes it doesn’t track exercise if your heart rate isn’t high enough, which can lead to incorrect readings for people using heart medications designed to control heart rate. For these people, there is an open type of exercise that only keeps track of time spent (it still records your heart rate but doesn’t use it to start the exercise).
So, let’s talk about this. I found, no doubt, that closing loops of the Workout app motivated me to exercise every day. But I wish the exercise app was more comprehensive. It does not track individual workouts and reps. So you can create a workout and have it guide you through a variety of weight training and cardio exercises and track individual developments.
But who knows if that matters? When I worked with a coach, and we tracked all of that, I worked out a lot fewer days each year than when I simply pushed to close my loops every day. So, I think Apple has something here with the simplicity of its implementation.
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The third loop is the standing loop. It requires you to stand at least once every hour for 12 hours (although you can specify the number of hours). It tends to be picky. It doesn’t just score standing. You have to be awake for a certain amount of time or register a certain amount of movement. If you’re stuck in meetings all day, there are days when you just can’t get enough standing hours to close the loops. I’ve also found that the need to stand by the clock sometimes meant I had to wake a pup who was sleeping in my arms or interrupt something delicate I was working on at the Fab Lab.
I found myself so nervous about the standing ring, that I considered giving up the Apple Fitness thing entirely. Instead, I decided to let myself off the hook with the stand loop and be strict about movement and exercise.
Full focus of the mind
In the 2021 release of iOS 15, Apple added the Mindfulness app to the Apple Watch. The app reminds you to breathe or think according to the settings you have chosen. It also tracks your heart rate while you exercise alertness. Data about your mindfulness activity is uploaded from the watch to your iPhone, and you can see a more detailed summary and history of your mindfulness exercises in the Apple Fitness app.
What is the Apple Fitness Plus program?
Apple Fitness Plus is a completely different beast from Apple Fitness. Apple Fitness is the app we described. Apple Fitness Plus is a video streaming service that feeds exercise videos to your iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV.
In some ways, the Apple Fitness Plus is Apple’s answer to the Peloton without the bike. It allows you to use your existing household equipment, even if it’s just a set of weights. The app connects you with videos of a wide range of trainers across a wide range of workouts, and you can play these training sessions. What gives it something special from Apple is that the watch data and loop completion information are fed to the screen. So, if you watch Apple Fitness Plus on your Apple TV, you can watch your heart rate and your entire episodes in real time.
While Apple Fitness and Episodes have no additional fee, Fitness Plus either costs $9.99 per month or can be combined with Apple One and Apple’s suite of services that include Apple Arcade, iCloud Storage, and Apple TV Plus.
what about you? Have you been working out with your Apple Watch and closing your loops? Have you tried Apple Fitness Plus? How has your fitness improved since you started? Let us know in the comments below.
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