How The Apple Watch Can Help You Reach Your Fitness Goals

An Apple Watch on a person's wrist
A person getting ready to set a workout on an Apple Watch.

Staying fit is a never-ending battle. Whether you’ve set a goal of maintaining your current level of fitness, or dropping a few pounds, your Apple Watch can be a valuable tool in your quest to reach that goal. The Apple Watch has a number of fitness features baked in, and even more available through third-party apps, that can help you get and stay fit, and have a little fun in the process.

Not sure where to get started?

Here’s a rundown on how your Apple Watch can help you reach your fitness goals:

Set a Goal

The first step in using your Apple Watch as a fitness tool is to set a goal.  From personal experience, I recommend starting with something that you know you can handle. For instance, burning 350 calories a day. While that seems like a low number, the Apple Watch counts the number of calories you’re burning from movement, not overall. That sets the goal apart from other fitness trackers. Those 350 calories equate to around 10,000 steps a day for an average-sized person. So, while you might see 350 calories as a small amount, you’re actually burning the same amount as another person walking 10,000 steps with their FitBit.

That goal is just to get you started. After your first full week with the Apple Watch, the Watch will give you a report of how you did in meeting that goal and make a suggestion on what you should set your goal to for the future.

If you killed that 350 calorie goal every day, then the Apple Watch might suggest that you try something a bit more ambitious, for instance, 500 calories a day, instead. Likewise, if the 350 proved a little too hard for you to manage, then the Apple Watch might suggest something a little lower for the following week.

Each day you’ll be able to see how far from your goal you are through the fitness rings on the Apple Watch’s face. I’ve found that just that the fitness rings (they appear as a  set of circles on the watch face) can be pretty motivating. If my work day is over and I still haven’t made it past the halfway point, I know that I really need to prioritize taking my dog on a long evening walk. Likewise, if I’ve already finished the ring by lunch, I can start planning a Netflix binge session for the evening without the guilt of missing a workout.

If you’re consistently hitting your goals, then the Apple Watch will always gently nudge you to try a little harder. Did you easily hit 500 calories a day all week? Why not try for 510 next week. The increases can be small, but if you add just 10 extra calories a day every week of the year, you’ll be burning an extra 500 12 months later. Small increases can make a huge difference over time, and if you gradually do them you’ll barely notice the difference. It’s much easier than killing yourself trying to reach too difficult goal early on, and since you’ll be continuously reaching your goals you’ll be motivated to keep getting better rather than discouraged by your failure in hitting a goal that was a bit too ambitious for you.

Take The “Stand Up” Notification To The Next Level 

One great fitness feature of the Apple Watch is its “stand up” notification. The idea behind the message is to make sure you stand up at least once every hour. Quite a few of us (myself included) work desk jobs these days that have us sitting in front of a computer most of the day. The “stand up” notification lets you know when you’ve been sitting for an hour and suggests you stand up for a minute instead.

A year of using the Apple Watch and seeing how much time I personally spend sitting around was enough to convince me to spring for a standing desk.

My standing desk is essentially a pad (for comfort) and a laptop pedestal for my bookshelf in my office. It was super easy (and cheap) to make, and has gotten me (literally) off my butt some days when I really need to buckle down on work and otherwise would have spent the day sitting in a desk chair.

Over the past few months, I’ve added a new step when I get the stand up message…I pace for a few minutes. My FitBit suggests walking 250 steps every hour, for most of the hours of the day. I think that’s a solid suggestion and makes getting to the step goal a little easier.

Now whenever my Apple Watch suggests I stand up, I stand up and walk around the office for a few minutes. I take some time to play for a few minutes with my dog or consider running downstairs to check the mail, making a new cup of coffee, or doing something else that would equate to roughly 250 steps. Again, 250 seems like a small amount, but if you multiply that over eight hours of your workday and you’ll end up with 2000 more steps than you would have gotten if you’d just stayed behind your monitor all day.

Use the Workout Feature

For me, one of the most powerful features of the Apple Watch is its workout tool. Just like your daily goals, you can set a workout goal for the particular activity you’re about to enjoy. For me, I use the feature most for dog walks. I set a goal of 200 calories (or sometimes more) in the morning and then walk with my dog until we reach that goal. It makes it really simple to see in real-time how many calories I’m burning and has helped me get a really good gauge on what constitutes a “good” walk worthy of “workout” status and what walking routes really just aren’t much of anything.

Arguably, I could have figured that out with any fitness tracker, but for some reason, the interface of the Apple Watch makes that much easier for me to understand.

Even better, when you launch a workout you can see what your history is with that particular workout. For instance, when I walk I can see that my last walk was also 250 calories, or that my best ever was 600. It’s great for putting your workout in perspective, and just like with weekly goals, it’s an easy way to gradually push yourself a little harder. Was your last run 3 miles? Why not try to run 3.1 today? It’s a small increase, sure, but again, add .1 every few days and you’ll be running a mile more in no time. If you have an Apple Watch Series 2 you also have the option to swim with your watch and get the same benefits. 

Download Some Apps

The built-in fitness apps in the Apple Watch are great, but there are also a ton of great third-party apps out there that can help take your workouts, and your fitness level, to even greater heights.

Nike+ Run Club

With the Apple Watch Series 2, Apple partnered with Nike on a whole new Nike-branded version of the watch. You don’t have to own the Nike+ version; however, to take advantages of the app’s features. With the app you’re able to connect to Nike’s global running community, log your runs, and compete with friends who are also using the service.

Fitstar Yoga

If you love yoga, but hate yoga studios, then the Fitstar app can be a great way to get your fix. The Fitter yoga app  will show you poses directly on your wrist, for a visual coach that will work everywhere from your hotel room to your living room (or office, we won’t judge).

The app also provides information like how much time is left in your session, and enables you to play, pause, or move back and forth within a workout.

WaterMinder

Just as important as getting some cardio in your day is getting some water. The Waterminder app does exactly what it sounds like it does: watches your water consumption. You’ll have to enter everything in manually, which can be a bit problematic if you’re forgetful like me, but when you do remember the app can let you know if you’ve consumed enough water for the day and suggest you grab an extra glass if it doesn’t think you’ve appropriately hydrated yourself for the day.

Carrot Fit

Do you need motivation to work out in the first place? Don’t we all. With carrot Fit, the app will push you to workout during the day, and offers 7-minute workouts that are perfect to fit in between meetings in your office, or during a quick break in your Netflix binge session.

Seven

Seven is another great option for people who need to keep their workouts quick.  The app shows body positions for things like pushups and squats and coaches ​your through either a 7, 14-minute, or 21-minute workout. It can be great when you’re on the go but still want to workout for a few minutes.

Lark

Need some health coaching? Lark can be a great way to get a bit of insight into your health and suggestions on how to make it better. The app monitors what you eat, your workouts, sleep, and more and then offers advice and motivation for how you can improve.