In today’s age of technological advances, many of my clients seem to be seeking out the best fitness tracking device. Today there are many on the market. Some of the “best” trackers include:
- Fitbit (and it’s many versions)
- Garmin Vivoactive Review
- Withings Activite
- Sony SmartBand Talk
And now the Apple Watch.
Though the Apple Watch serves many more purposes than simply tracking your fitness, my hope was that the latest Apple release was going to be the ultimate activity tracker. After 6 weeks of use, I have realized Apple Watch is functional but by no means perfect.
How is it Different and What Have I Liked?
Most fitness trackers measure activity in number of steps. Apple Watch’s “Move Goal” is measured in caloric burn rather than total daily steps. The layout of the built in App. is easy to read, comprehend and modify goals. Your “Move Goal” is measured in three different modalities: standing time, total activity, and movement. If you sit too long you will get a reminder from your watch that it is time to stand up and move!
Personally, measuring progress through movement and calories expended gives me more incentive to get up and achieve short burst of exercise. That may be standing up at my desk and doing 20 body weight squats, sometimes it is push-ups, and other times it is a quick lap around the facility just to get up and walk. Being reminded not to get consumed with work at my desk for hours without moving has been helpful.
What is Missing?
Unfortunately there is no sleep tracking built into the Apple Watch. I assume since most people charge their watch at night this was not a high priority for Apple. I have done some research and it looks like there are some third party apps ready to fill this void, though I have not tried any of them yet.
Another feature that is missing is a built in GPS. You can use the GPS on your phone after syncing your Watch BUT if you want to go for a run or ride your bike without taking your phone along, Apple Watch will not be able to track your route.
Apple Watch’s Built-In Workout App.
The Apple Watch does have its own built in workout app which will track runs, cycles, walks, free weight exercise, etc. but I have found this to be far from perfect.
When you “start” a sessions, the Watch keeps track of your heart race, pace, distance, and time just like a Fitbit, Garmin Fenix or Sony SmartBand but I have found this to be very inaccurate.
I have tested a few short routes and the Apple Watch consistently measures one mile to be 0.9miles and the pace listed was not even close. To me, that makes the app for running purposes almost completely useless.
When you finish your run, or workout, it provides you with a text summary of the exercise performed but because of its inaccuracies mentioned above I have been reluctant to trust the data.
The real killer for me was when I tested the app. while sitting at my desk. I selected “start workout”, timed a 60minute “workout” from my desk (sitting and typing for an hour), and then ended the “workout”. My Apple Watch said I had burned over 500kcal in that hour. I wish that were true!! Since then, I have not used the workout app. once.
One Workout Feature That Did Seem To Work
I did take the time to compare my Apple Watch heart rate to Polar Heart Rate chest strap and the data seems to come back fairly consistent. Not perfect (within 5bpm of each other). I know it is not scientifically accurate, but at least it was consistent and showed some similar data.
If you are looking for the next best fitness tracker, the Apple Watch is not what you are looking for. There will be VAST improvements to future generations of the Apple Watch so I would avoid making this type of financial commitment ($400-$1000 depending on what you get) right now.
That said, with improvements to future generations of the Watch and third party apps, I have no doubt that someday the Apple Watch will be right up there with other “Gold Standard” fitness trackers. We just have to give it some time and be patient.
For now, keep moving, stay mindful, and never rely on technology to keep you fit. We all know what we need to do. We shouldn’t have to have a computer to tell us!