Apple Watch Hacks for Health

There is no doubt that the Apple Watch is an impressive gadget that spares no expenses when it comes to features. Like all Apple devices, it comes loaded with top of the line high-tech hardware. This makes it a versatile piece of equipment that opens up so many possibilities for app makers. 

Whether you are doing long and intense workouts or Just Greasing the Groove throughout the day, the Apple Watch is a great fitness companion.

The Apple Watch is no jack of all trades even though it was originally designed to be a companion device to the iPhone. After getting a few upgrades, it was ready to compete even with some of the most popular dedicated fitness wearables. Apple also made it clear that it wouldn’t just be playing catchup after it introduced a revolutionary system that would be the first of its kind in the health wearables space.

Since the Apple Watch offers so much, it can take you time and a good amount of customization, tweaking or “hacking” so you can maximize its capabilities. 

Hardware for health

The Apple Watch 5 is equipped with various sensors that allow it to get critical data from the user and its environment. Knowing what your Apple Watch can do will give you a good idea of how it can help your training. Here are some of the sensors built into the latest generation:     

  • Altimeter – measures height of your position. Often used for tracking flights of stairs climbed.

  • Optical heart sensor/ photoplethysmogram (PPG) – This is found on the back of the watch. It measures how much blood is being pumped under the skin. This is used by the Heart Rate app and dozens of other native and third-party health apps.

  • Magnetometer – measures magnetic fields. Typically used by the compass app.

  • Accelerometer – measures acceleration and is often used by running and cycling apps

  • Gyroscope – detects orientation or angular velocity. This is used by the watch’s fall detection feature.

  • Ambient light sensor – detects light levels in your environment. Often used by sleep tracker apps.

  • GPS – tracks your location, also used by running apps.

  • Electrical heart sensor – The Apple Watch can take an ECG/EKG reading using these sensors located at the back and on the crown of the device. It is the first ECG feature on a consumer device that has received cleared fro the FDA.  

As you can see, the possibilities of combining the data gathered by these sensors with data from all your other Apple devices such as the personal information you provide on all other apps and services can provide a very clear picture of your health condition.

A watch that can do so much

The Apple Watch is now just as capable as an iPhone, so the apps for it are just as many. There are literally tens of thousands of apps for it on the App Store right now and it can be tedious to try out a number of them just to see which one works for you. If you are a new Apple Watch owner and would like to get your device working for your training immediately, we recommend exploring the features that already come preloaded with it.

Native health apps

  • Workout app – You can track pretty much any kind of sport or workout on a brand new, out-of-the-box Apple Watch. To add and track your activity, just choose any of the available Workout Types in the app. Choose Other if you the choice is not available. The Watch will even ask you if you want to start tracking whenever it detects activity from you. 

  • Activity app – This app tracks 3 activity categories: Move, Exercise, Stand. This app is a simple but effective motivator since it will make you feel compelled to close your Activity rings. You can also share your activity, see the activity of others and even compete with them. 

  • Heart rate app – This app basically checks your heart rate and tells you if it detects irregularities. It can also be set up to alert you when your heart rate gets too high or too low. However, this is just the most very basic use of the heart rate sensor. There are a lot of other third-party health apps that use heart rate data for various health applications. For example, the Watch also uses it to estimate the number of burned calories.

  • ECG app – While the heart rate app measures the blood flow under your wrist with the optical sensor at the back of the watch, the ECG app measures the electrical pulses that make your heart beat. This app can tell you your sinus rhythm result and alert you if your heart is beating irregularly (atrial fibrillation). 

  • Breathe app – Training and being active is well and good, but you should also make time to calm down. The Breathe app allows you to do exactly that. It guides you through a series of breaths based on your heart rate which may seem simple but works surprisingly well.

Heart rate zones

What’s so cool about the Apple Watch’s heart-monitoring features is that it tells you what the ECG reading could possibly indicate and you can also send the results to your doctor in just a few taps.

One thing the Heart App can help you monitor is your heart rate zones. The idea behind this is that there are 5 zones based on percentages of your maximum heart rate. Ideally, all zones should be part of your training program. The training zones go from very light to maximum and each zone should give you its own training benefit. You can use the app to monitor how hard your heart works in each zone and you can use a maximum heart rate calculator to see if your heart is beating within the acceptable threshold.

A third-party app for your every need

If the native health apps aren’t enough for you, then its time to download some third-party health apps from the App Store. As we’ve mentioned in The Apple Watch And How it Can Help You Improve Your Health, here are some of the most popular ones worth trying out: 

  • AutoSleep – What’s surprising is that Apple does not come with its own sleep tracker. Kind of a minor issue since there are a lot of good sleep apps out there. One of the best is AutoSleep since it’s easy to use and uses rings like the Activity app.

  • Strava – It’s basically THE app to get if you run or cycle. What’s good about this app is that it’s also a social network. It allows you to connect to share your activity with other runners/athletes, which is a good motivator for most users.

  • MyFitnessPal – A healthy diet is an essential part of staying healthy. Even if you’re not heavy into fitness, this app will still help you track calories, giving you a breakdown of your protein, carbs and fat intake. It also tells you how much activity you need to engage in to burn off what you ate. It also has thousands of verified foods in its database for easier logging of calorie and nutrition content.

  • Hole19 – This app gives golfers everything they need in a smartwatch. Hole19 offers a list of good courses, a rangefinder, score tracker, shot tracking, stats tracking and a lot more.

  • Seven – This app gives you a good workout in just 7 minutes, giving you no excuses not to do it. All you need for Seven to work is a wall, a chair, and your bodyweight.

These are just some examples of apps that can really maximize the potential of your Apple Watch. There’s practically more than one app for every need and you may find that you don’t really need to dig too deep in the App Store to get what you want. 

Hidden hacks

Sometimes the Apple Watch makes things too convenient for us that there are times that we miss some of its most obvious features. 

  • Take pictures/videos of yourself working out – Don’t forget that you can use your Apple Watch to control the camera on your iPhone. This feature comes in handy if you want to take videos of yourself while working out. You can review your form later on or maybe take a few snaps to post on Instagram. Here’s a more extensive review on how to take pictures via your Apple Watch.

  • Water lock/Eject water feature – The Apple Watch 5 can be worn while swimming since it is water-resistant. However, it doesn’t mean that water or sweat won’t get into its openings. Before you go into the water, make sure to activate the Water Lock app first by tapping on the water droplet icon. This prevents the screen from activating while you swim. To dry the watch, just turn the digital crown to eject water from its speakers.

  • Turn fall detection off – The fall detection feature comes activated for users 55 and older. However, there might be occasions where you want to turn it off to prevent it from alerting your emergency contacts. To do this, just go into the Emergency SOS in My Watch tab, then turn Fall Detection on or off. 

  • Use Wrist Raise to Show Last App – This comes in handy if you don’t want to constantly re-open the app that you’re using because of your arm movement. To do this, go to the settings menu, then turn on the Wrist Raise feature. Under ‘On Screen Raise Show Last App’, and just choose the setting you prefer.

Conclusion 

The Apple Watch definitely makes living a healthier lifestyle a lot easier and we would recommend getting one even at its current price. However, if you want to upgrade from the 4th gen, you might want to hold off for a while. While the native apps are somewhat basic, the third-party apps and compatible devices more than make up for it. The only obvious problem with it is the 18-hour battery life but in terms of features and functionality, it is definitely one of the top 5 in its space and may even have carved its own niche.