This week I’m going to do an Apple Watch review for its use as a fitness/health aid. I’m sure there’s plenty online about other technical features, but that is not my area of expertise! This review is from the perspective of an average user who wants the watch primarily for fitness.
I have the sport option, which is smaller, lighter, and has a rubber band.
It fits like any standard watch, and it looks pretty cool. It was a Christmas present from my husband, who noticed how much I liked to look at my step count on my iPhone. The main problem is that I usually lay it down when I’m in the house, or I put it on top of the jogging stroller if I’m on a run. It’s always frustrated me that my steps don’t “count” when iPhone is riding or sitting, even when I’m active.
The solution? The Apple Watch. Well, kind of. Mostly.
There are three categories of fitness that it measures. It counts calories burned (that’s the red “Move” ring), minutes of exercise (above just regular walking around), and how many hours in which you stand for at least one minute. Progress is displayed on the face, and it gives you progress reports and reminders throughout the day.
You can imagine my disappointment when I stood up cooking for almost two hours straight, only to be told I needed to stand! What? I *was* standing! Plus, if it didn’t know I was standing, it must have been counting calories burned at the couch potato level. Unfair. What the heck, Apple Watch?
Then, I paced exactly ten steps across the floor and checked my watch again. It didn’t even count those ten steps! So I did another ten. And another. Then I did it while carrying my iPhone. Finally, it added up some of them (but not all).
That same night I went to an hour-long weight lifting/total body type of class. I know my pulse rate was elevated because I was sweating. Apple Watch only seemed to think I worked out for eight of 60 minutes. At that rate, burning 500 “active” calories was going to be impossible.
Only a few days later our family attended a birthday party. My friend’s son was turning 2. The boy’s aunt was there for the big day, and it just so happened she worked for Apple. I told her my woes, and she said I was wearing my watch too loosely and that I needed to carry my phone with me while I used it.
The watch doesn’t really know if you’re standing or working out or whatever. It makes the inference by checking your pulse and using GPS distance, an accelerometer, and a gyroscope. She said it couldn’t get an accurate read on my pulse without it being tighter and that the GPS in my phone would help it determine my stride with more accuracy.
I made both of the changes, although I only tightened the wristband while exercising. I find that getting a bit sweaty makes it looser, but if I’m just wearing it around, the tightest setting is uncomfortable. Tightening while working out helped. I also started using the workout app on the watch. With the workout app, you’re telling Apple Watch that you’re working out. It apparently scans your pulse rate more often, and it engages GPS for outdoor runs or bicycle rides.
These changes helped with step count accuracy, calories burned, and recognizing when I exercised. As for the stand meter, I’ve accepted that I must do more than just stand. Usually I’ll march in place and wave my hands around. The point of the stand meter is to make sure you don’t remain sedentary for long periods of time. There’s been a lot of press that inactivity could be a carcinogen.
Is It Worth It?
The Apple Watch is not perfect. It does not capture every single step. It doesn’t know all the times you’re standing. And because it doesn’t know when you’re necessarily standing versus sitting, I think the calorie count is low. (Standing burns more calories than sitting.) This makes it sound like a rip, I know.
However, after wearing it consistently for two solid weeks, I can tell you that it improved a lot. By making the simple adjustments I told you about, I was able to get much better accuracy out of it. Most importantly, I am definitely more active throughout the day when I wear the watch. I know I burn more calories because I’m constantly checking my progress wheels. If I’m not there, I’ll do extra jumping jacks or run another mile to meet my goal. I also do not skimp on a daily workout.
Because these three fitness calculations are constantly being taken through the day, I am much more mindful of being active. It’s displayed right there on my wrist and because of that, my behavior changes as a result. If you want to move more and burn more calories, Apple Watch will make a difference. Plus, you can take calls on it like you’re Dick Tracy. So yes, it’s definitely worth it!