Apple has always lived by its user-centric ethos by introducing apps and features that help make our daily activities way easier. One aspect of everyday life that Apple has been consistently innovating on is health and fitness. In fact, it’s what sets Apple apart from other companies.The tech giant treats its health and fitness apps as priorities and not as an afterthought. Apple apps can help users monitor and manage their health data taken from different sources into one central dashboard.
In this article, we will provide some of the different health and fitness apps and features in your Apple device and how to get the most out of them.
Apple’s Commitment to Health and Fitness
Apple approaches its health and fitness mission by creating an app that is not only meant for the gym or the track. Instead, the app can be woven seamlessly into the user’s daily life to help them monitor their heart rate, blood oxygen, step count, calories, and more, allowing them to adhere to a healthy lifestyle throughout the day.
Introduced back in 2014, the Apple Health app displays the user’s health status in one central hub for easy access anytime. The app uses health and medical information stored by the user and can even pull data from compatible fitness trackers, smartwatches, and smart scales.
But Apple did not stop there. The introduction of the Apple Watch and the Apple Fitness+ subscription service makes it easy for users to track their fitness goals and stream different workout routines from any other Apple device and start working out from anywhere.
With the app’s latest iteration, users are encouraged to walk more thanks to the Time to Walk feature. It plays music and inspirational monologues from athletes, musicians, and actors to accompany you while you are walking.
Fitness and health activities can be paired and tracked seamlessly in a variety of apps within the Apple ecosystem. Set up is easy and seamless. Many nifty features provide progress updates, challenges or gentle nudging that assist in the health and fitness journey.
Apple Watch Through The Years
The Apple Watch has seen many developments and innovations through the years but with a consistent commitment in mind: to be an extension of your iPhone and to be your health and fitness partner. Here’s a brief history of the Apple Watch:
|Apple Watch Generation||Release Date||watchOS Series||Last watchOS Update|
|1st Generation||April 2015||watch OS 1.0 (iOS 8.2)||watchOS 4.3.2 (iOS 11.4.1)|
|Series 1||December 2016||watchOS 3.0 (iOS 10.0)||watchOS 6.2.8 (iOS 13.7)|
|Series 2||December 2016||watchOS 3.0 (iOS 10.0)||watchOS 6.3 (iOS 13.7)|
|Series 3||September 2017||watchOS 4.0 (iOS 11.0)||Supported by the current watchOS|
|Series 4||September 2018||watchOS 5.0 (iOS 12.0)||Supported by the current watchOS|
|Series 5||September 2019||watchOS 6.0 (iOS 13.0)||Supported by the current watchOS|
|SE||September 2020||watchOS 7.0 (iOS 14.0)||Supported by the current watchOS|
|Series 6||September 2020||watchOS 7.0 (iOS 14.0)||Supported by the current watchOS|
|Series 7||October 2021||watchOS 8.0 (iOS 15.0)||Supported by the current watchOS|
9 Health and Fitness Features of Your Apple Device
With so many features packed into your Apple device, you may not be maximizing all of them. This section will be a primer on Apple’s health and fitness features to get you started.
1. Pulse oximeter
The Apple Watch comes with a built-in pulse oximeter function that measures your blood’s oxygen levels. It measures the ratio of oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin using red and green LED lights and infrared lights at the bottom of the Apple Watch.
While the results are not intended for medical use, they can provide insights regarding your general health and fitness levels. Athletes can use this along with the heart rate feature to measure their VO2 max (oxygen uptake), which is a good predictor of their level of athletic performance.
Using this app is easy, as you only need to open the app, stay still, and keep your wrists flat for 15 seconds for the results to show. The app will occasionally take readings throughout the day to monitor your blood oxygen levels at rest. All of the results are stored in the Health app.
This feature is available via the Blood Oxygen app on the Apple Watch Series 6. You can also view the results on an iPhone 6s or later models updated to the latest iOS version. Individuals under 18 years old are restricted from using this app.
2. Hand washing detection
Tired of singing Happy Birthday twice while washing hands (it takes ~20 sec to sing)?
The handwashing feature is activated when the Apple Watch detects movements that are closely associated with handwashing since it uses motion sensors and its microphones to catch the sound of running water.
It shows a countdown of 20 seconds when activated, which is the recommended length of time for handwashing to be effective. If it detects that you did not finish the full 20 seconds, it will nudge you with an alert to encourage you to continue until the timer runs out.
Since this feature captures the movement of your hands, it is only available on the Apple Watch Series 4 and up. You can turn on this feature in the Settings of your Apple Watch or the My Watch tab in the Watch app of your iPhone.
3. Breathing reminders
The Breathe app encourages you to spare a few minutes of your day for deep breathing sessions and mindfulness exercises. Be more relaxed by either using the pre-set, or choose the length and number of sessions based on your preference.
When activated, an animated flower gently expands and contracts over several seconds. The app instructs you to take a deep breath when the flower expands and exhale when it contracts. The app also shows your heart rate during the breathing session once you’re finished. It also mutes some notifications to help you stay focused on the session.
It only takes a brief moment to go through the exercise – so no big time investment.
The Breathe app is available on the Apple Watch. However, you can adjust your preferences and view and track your usage on your iPhone that is paired with your Apple Watch.
4. Activity tracking
The Health app tracks your activities like walking, running, and any other exercises you have done to see how many calories you have burned in a day.
Your activity is summarized and displayed as three colored rings: the red ring tracks how many active calories you’ve burned, the green ring tracks the exercises you’ve performed for the day, and the blue ring reminds you to stand up and move around several times each day for a few minutes.
This is a core feature of the Health app and can be accessed on an iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. However, only the Apple Watch can track how many steps you’ve taken for the day. The Apple Watch also sends out encouraging notifications to push you to complete your fitness tasks.
This feature also allows you to have some friendly competition with your peers because you can add your contacts/friends in the Health app and see each other’s daily records. The Health app rewards you with badges when you break a personal record or move about more over time.
5. Sleep cycle
Sleep is one of the most important activities that keep our minds and bodies in tip-top shape. However, it seems that people are having trouble getting enough of it. The Health app assists in providing you with more visibility and gentle reminders of the goals you have set with the help of some nifty features.
On the app, you can track your sleep and set your sleep goals (i.e., how many hours you’d like to sleep), then set a schedule for your bedtime and wake-up time. Also, you can activate the Sleep Mode to protect your sleep by dimming the lock screen and limiting the notifications that can distract you from having your shut-eye.
This feature is available on iPhones and Apple Watch. However, the Apple Watch has added features that track metrics like your heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and respiratory rate while you’re sleeping.
6. Heart rate
The Heart Rate app on your Apple Watch can monitor your heart rate at rest and during workouts. It does this by flashing LED and infrared lights at its back to measure how much blood is coursing through your wrist.
It also notifies you when your heartbeats per minute are higher or lower than the heart rate that you have set. This feature can also be used to detect irregular heart rhythms.
This feature is available on the Apple Watch, watchOS 5.1.2 or later. However, you can view your history and results on your iPhone.
Starting with the Apple Watch Series 4, Apple users can take an electrocardiogram test (ECG or EKG) using the ECG app. An ECG records the electrical signals from your heart to check its rhythm.
To use the app, you should rest your arms on a table or your lap, then hold a finger on the digital crown for 30 seconds. After the 30 seconds is up, the app will tell you whether your heart is in normal rhythm or if you are experiencing an abnormal heart rhythm (atrial fibrillation or AFib).If the recording returned an AFib result, it should be shared with your doctor as it can be a sign of stroke or heart failure. You can share the ECG results with your doctor in PDF.
All of the results will be stored in your Health app, which you can view on your iPhone. The app will also provide some general feedback, in regards to ECG results. Check in with your physician at any time you have concerns, as the app does not replace a medical professional.
An Apple Watch exclusive, the new Noise App monitors the sound levels in your environment and notifies you if you may be at risk of hearing loss. It does this by using its microphones to measure the decibel levels where you are at. But don’t worry, it won’t record nor store any sounds.
To use the app, open the My Watch app on your iPhone, then go to Noise. You can also change the settings directly from your Apple Watch. From there, you can set the average decibel threshold that the Apple Watch should monitor. If the average sound level reaches or exceeds this threshold over three minutes, the app will notify you that your hearing may be at risk of damage.
9. Fall sensor
Falls can be a serious problem. According to a report, half of all accidental deaths that occurred in homes are caused by a fall.
Taking this into consideration, Apple introduced the Fall Sensor, starting on the Apple Watch Series 4 and later models. When it detects a fall while you’re wearing the watch, it sounds an alarm and displays an alert from which you can choose to contact emergency services or tap “I’m OK.” Keep in mind that the Apple watch needs to either be cellular to go solo, or the Apple watch needs to be in close range to your phone.
If the watch detects that you have been immobile for a while, it will begin a countdown before it begins to call emergency services automatically and alert your family and other close contacts of what has happened.
You can activate the fall detection feature on the My Watch app on your iPhone. Users aged 65 years or older will have this feature automatically enabled.
How to Maximize These Health and Fitness Features
Here are some best practices you can apply to get more value from your Apple device.
1. Supply accurate data in your Health app
The Health app estimates how many calories you burn based on your heart rate and activity matched against the personal information you’ve provided in the app. It is in the best interest of the device wearer to provide accurate data so that the Apple Watch can make more accurate estimations based on health standards.
2. Set up an emergency ID and contact
Setting up an Emergency ID will put important medical information like underlying illnesses, medications, and allergies on display on the device for emergency responders. It will also show who the responders of the chosen contact are to alert them of the current condition.
3. Third-party health and fitness apps from the App Store
The App store has a variety of other compatible Health apps that can pull the data automatically. Switch on permissions to allow third-party apps to share data with your Health app.
4. Review trends and highlights
Tracking health metrics can provide interesting insights. Be sure to share trends and other information detected by your device with the appropriate health professional for maximum benefits.
Since the introduction of the Apple Watch in 2015, many fitness and health features have been added by Apple. Within a few years this device has been embraced by many, recognizing the benefits. Not only do they seamlessly integrate with all Apple devices, but provide its wearers information never gathered beforehand.
Apple’s user-centric philosophy keeps on adding features that can make a real impact.
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