How The Apple Watch Can Help You Get Fit

The Apple Watch can help you reach your fitness goals

The Apple Watch can be a powerful tool when it comes to getting fit, provided you use it correctly. The watch can monitor your heart rate and movement, as well help guide you to improving your workouts, as long as you let it.After using the Apple Watch as part of my fitness routine over the past year I’ve come up with a few tips I think you might find useful when incorporating it into yours.

Set an Achievable Goal

The Weekly Goal option is one of the best features of the Apple Watch when it comes to fitness. Each week you can set new goals when it comes to the amount of time you exercise, the amount of time you move, and even the amount of time you spend standing. At the end of the week, the watch will give you a report of how you did on reaching the goals, and offer a suggestion for a realistic goal for the next week based on how you did.

That realistic goal part is crucial. When I first started using the Apple Watch I kicked things off with a daily calories burn goal of 1000. While that’s certainly a good goal, it was WAY too high for my present activity level at the time. The result? I failed at achieving it every single day. Not exactly a motivating experience. I was used to my FitBit where calorie goals include not only the calories you burn from movement but also the ones you burn just sitting behind your desk.

Turns out I was burning a lot less from movement than I thought, and the proof was on my wrist.

After my first few weeks of failure, I took the Apple Watch’s advice and went with a much more realistic goal: 500. Once I hit that for the entire week the Apple Watch suggested I go up to 550, and then 600, eventually finding myself at a daily goal now of well over 1000.

I just needed to gradually get there.

Easy does it

That gradual progression is key. Whenever you set a goal for yourself too high, be it from exercise or otherwise, you set yourself up for failure and disappointment. For me, if I had continued to fail at meeting my move goal day after day I would have eventually gotten discouraged and abandoned the feature entirely. That wouldn’t have helped my health for sure.

Set a goal your first week that’s definitely achievable. Sure, you’ll hit it every day, but think about how successful and motivated you’ll feel once you do. Once you’ve used the Apple Watch for a week it will also get a feel for how you move and start to make smart suggestions for the future. That means that even though your goal one week one was just 300 calories, the Apple Watch might come back after seeing how you move and suggest a dramatic increase the next week to 600 or more. 

Check out our comparison of the Apple Watch vs. FitBit's Blaze Smartwatch

When you do bump things up, do some incrementally rather than trying to go huge in a single week. In your weekly report, the Apple Watch will let you know how much you moved each day the week before, and make a suggestion on what the right increase (or decrease) should be for your new weekly goal.

Listen. For quite a while I was convinced that I knew better, and set goals that were either too high or too low for what I needed. The Apple Watch is literally paying attention to how you move all day every day (as long as you're wearing it). Trust its idea on what an appropriate goal is.

I also recommend taking a look at the weekly report and noting what days you’re most active, and what days you tend to slack off. In some cases, days that I thought I was fairly active were some of my lowest performers. Knowing that I always tend to move less on Sundays, for instance, is encouragement to go for a run in the morning before I settle into my traditional binge-watching routine in order to get my numbers up.

Learning trends about yourself is one of the most powerful tools you can have to make yourself, and your workout routines, better. And let’s be honest: there's something truly satisfying about completing all those circles 

Use the Workout App

Just like setting goals for the week are important, setting goals for your individual workouts can be an excellent motivator as well. The Workout app keeps track of each of your workouts, and lets you know before you start a new one what your calorie burn was for the last. Here's a tutorial on how to use it.

It sounds like a small thing, but bumping up your calorie burn goal by even just 25-50 calories a workout can make a huge difference over time. I started bumping things up for walks with my dog in the morning. Our 100 calorie walk quickly turned into a 200-calorie walk, and later 250. The increase was small. I think I may have bumped the goal up by 25 calories each time we headed out, and sometimes not at all. By always forcing myself to reach the same goal I did on our last walk; however, I eventually got myself into the routine of taking 300-calorie walks each morning. Certainly small, but that’s triple what we were doing when we started, and it definitely adds up. 

The same method can be used for running or even hitting the elliptical. Each time you do a workout, aim to push yourself just a tiny bit further. With a super tiny push each day, all those tiny increases will add up to one huge one over time, and chances are you won't even notice. And those are just the built-in Workout app's features. Third parties have made some amazing fitness apps for the Apple Watch as well.

Actually Stand Up When The Watch Tells You To

One huge eye opener for me with the Apple Watch was when it came to standing. The Watch suggests that you stand up for one minute out of the hour, 12 hours a day. If you had asked me how often I stood before I got the watch, I probably would have (confidently) told you that I definitely meet that goal every day without question. Boy, was I wrong.

As a writer, I spend a ton of time each day at my desk. Either I'm working on a story, surfing the web looking for my next big idea (or let's be honest seeing what my friends are up to Facebook), or talking on the phone with a source -- the big thing everything I do has in common is that it involves a chair.

While I definitely get up to get more coffee or go to the restroom fairly often, that isn't actually that often when you fit it into the big picture of my day. When I first started wearing the watch I ignored the messages suggesting I stand up, and found that some days I would only get to 6 or 7 hours in the day that I had stood one minute of. That’s much, much lower than I originally anticipated.

Now whenever the watch pings me to suggest I stand up, I seriously consider it. Sure, sometimes I'm in the middle of a project and keep moving along, but others I'm mindlessly sitting either at my desk or at a bar with friends and could easily stand up for a few minutes. I'm even considering setting up a standing desk in my home office to use intermittently throughout the day as well. Not standing and moving often enough wasn't a problem I realized I had, but not it's very easily corrected (and trackable!) which I love.

Heart Healthy

The power of wearing a heart rate sensor on my wrist recently came into play at an unexpected place: my doctor’s office.  I started on a new medication about a year ago. During my yearly checkup, questions came up about what my normal heart rate was, and whether it had increased over the past year.

Before the Apple Watch, I’m 100% sure I wouldn’t have been able to answer that question. I had a pretty basic idea of what my resting heart rate typically was. Did I check it every day? Absolutely not. And I never recorded it anywhere. If an increase happened over the course of the year I likely wouldn’t notice at all (unless it was a very dramatic and sudden one). By using the Apple Watch each day I actually had a record I could show my doctor from literally almost every day of the past year.

We were able to see what my resting and high heart rates were back then, and compare them to what’s going on now. The answer is they were the same, but I definitely would not have been able to confidently give that answer without the Health app on my iPhone and data from my Apple Watch. There’s something both magical and powerful about that.

Find Your Groove

The best way to use the Apple Watch to get fit is to simply use it. By even just wearing the watch every day you’ll gain insights into how you move ad when that you can use to help improve your fitness over time and reach your own personal goals, whatever they may be.