A health and fitness plan using Apple Watch and health data

Apple initially positioned the Apple Watch as being about three things: productivity, communication and fitness. While the device could indeed help in all three areas, it quickly became clear that its main appeal was helping people achieve their health and fitness goals.

A few years ago, my colleague Zach Hall told an inspiring story about using Apple Watch data to successfully lose weight, and now I decided to follow his example. I have a few health and fitness goals I want to achieve, and I’m hoping my data from the Health app will help me stay on track…

What gets measured gets managed

It’s truly amazing how much health and fitness data the Apple Watch (and iPhone) gives us. In my case, I also have Quardio smart scales that provide an additional set of data points.

My basic approach is the old adage that “What gets measured gets managed.” Of course, data needs to be front and center to be effective, which means reviewing the data daily.

The Health app can display graphs for a whole bunch of data, but each one is separate – and I wanted all the relevant data to be visible at a glance. Unless someone can show me what I’m missing, there doesn’t seem to be a way to tell the Health app to export your favorite categories of data, and I was in danger of being kicked out of the Nerd Club if I had to transcribe them manually.

What I decided was that I didn’t need a bunch of numbers anyway. What I really needed was to use the numbers to generate a nice color coded dashboard. Since I couldn’t fully automate the process, I decided to simplify it.

First, I split the data into inputs and outputs. The inputs were the things I had direct control over (like how many calories I was consuming and how many I was burning). The results were the final results. The metrics I chose to monitor are:

Inputs

  • Calories in
  • Calories burned
  • Exercising minutes
  • steps

Exits

  • Weight
  • Waist measurement
  • Body fat percentage
  • BMI
  • Heart rate at rest

My health and fitness dashboard

I created a spreadsheet, but instead of filling in the actual numbers – which would be tedious and difficult to analyze – I just decided to use the fill function to color code each cell. For the results, I used official government data to determine the bands, from poor (red) to excellent (green).

For inputs I have set my own thresholds and green means I’ve hit my target, yellow means I’m close to it and red means less than that.

Then I end up with a real, at-a-glance indicator of how well I’m doing in terms of both my behavior and my goal. My first day looks like this:

This shows that I have achieved all of my behavioral goals; that my weight, waist size, and body fat percentage put me on the naughty step; my BMI makes me overweight but not obese; and my resting heart rate is in the “good” range. My goal is to color all output cells green.

Every morning I’ll look up yesterday’s data in the Health app (plus my own calorie burn log) and it should take less than 30 seconds to update my dashboard.

The role of my Apple Watch

Of course, my Apple Watch collects a lot of the data: calories burned, minutes exercised, steps, and resting heart rate.

I set the Activity as one of my complications, of course, but I’ve set the Activity as a second watch face so I can swipe to it periodically throughout the day. I also have Cyclemeter and Workout as complications on this face to give instant access to them.

My iPhone also noticed that I seemed to be taking an unusual interest in my fitness metrics, so Siri’s suggestion stack brought up the activity card.

Health and fitness goals

As stated, my goal is to color all output cells green. Some people swear by specific goals with deadlines – for example, I will lose X pounds by Y date.

I can see the appeal of this and have at least general expectations in that regard, but it seems more reasonable to focus on the things I can control – the inputs – and let the outputs take care of themselves.

However, I have set 100 days as an initial milestone – which is February 5th – and will report on progress then, if not sooner.

Your advice

If you’ve used Apple Health data to help you reach your own health and fitness goals, please share any tips in the comments!

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