Two Things the Apple Watch Gets Wrong

After owning an Apple Watch for a few weeks, I have two major complaints about the way that it tracks and manages my fitness. 

Brock Armstrong
4-minute read

Photo of an Apple Watch tracking fitness

I have written in the past about how smart your smartwatch really is and whether or not fitness trackers actually lead to better fitness. In those articles, we found out how inaccurate these devices can be and how they actually have been correlated with an increase in body weight rather than a loss. One of the biggest takeaways for me is that of the smartwatches that have been tested, none actually measured energy expenditure (or counted calories) accurately at all. Even the most accurate device was off by an average of 27 percent and the least accurate was off by a whopping 93 percent. 

Despite the negative info I uncovered while writing those articles, I still went out and purchased an Apple Watch. Not necessarily to use as a fitness tracker (I have had many of those over the years) but more specifically for its productivity, reminders, and fun features. Plus, I am a nerd, and despite their increasing cost, I am also an Apple fanboy. 

I have had the watch for a while now and even though I don't put a lot of stock in its ability to help me be a fit and mobile member of society, I can't help but heed the alerts that pop up telling me that it is "time to stand up" or that I am "usually farther along in my exercise goals" or that if I just went for a 23-minute walk, I would hit my movement goal (calorie burn) for the day. In all honesty, the other night while I was watching a hockey game on TV, I actually stood up and marched in place, did some jumping jacks and burpees in order to "close all my rings." I am sure the fun will wear off soon but for now, I am enjoying the feedback.

Problem #1

But all is not sunshine and protein pops. There have been more than a few times that this feedback has actually made me a little mad. The first incident happened while I was walking to an appointment at 8:30 am and the watch gleefully announced to me that I had hit my exercise goal for the day. At 8:30 am. In reality, I had merely gotten out of bed, had a cup of coffee, dressed and started walking to my appointment. I wasn't even halfway there when I got the message that I was done for the day. No more exercise required. I could go home, put my feet up and reap the rewards of all that "hard work." 

Meanwhile, I actually had a formal workout planned for later in the day (it was upper body day at the gym). I also still had to finish walking to the appointment, walk home again (another 60-minutes of walking), ride my bike to the gym, and otherwise be the active body mover that I always strive to be. Not to burn calories or please my Apple Overlord but because it is fun, mood boosting, and energy building. No to mention that it is an antidote to our modern society where it can be so easy to spend the other 23.5 hours that we are not fulfilling our fitness tracker's desires sitting on our butts. 

The idea that our daily movement knows any limit (beyond our own self-governors of fatigue) and could possibly ever be "done for the day" was actually enough to make me take to Facebook in one of those walking-down-the-street style rants. You can check it out at Facebook.com/getFitGuy

To learn more about incidental movement, and what I consider fitness to really be, make sure to check out some other articles on this website. 

Problem #2

On the flipside, if you have read the articles (or listened to the podcasts) called 6 Reasons Recovery is Essential to Your Exercise Routine and Supercompensation: Why a Break in Your Training Is Necessary, you will know that rest and recovery are just as important as kicking it into high gear when it comes to building strength, endurance, and general fitness. Well, apparently someone forgot to send that memo to the slave drivers at Apple. My watch treats every day equally, even if it has on record that I completely crushed-it for three or four days in a row (vastly exceeding its idea of an exercise goal). 

I know it is asking a lot for Apple to truly have created a tiny coach that I can wear on my wrist but they could have at least included a button or a setting that simply tells the watch "back off man, today is a recovery day!" Instead, while I am being a smart athlete, taking it easy so I can let all my hard work manifest itself into fitness, it continues to cajole and egg me on. Not only that, it then punishes me for breaking my movement streak and resets me to zero.

I know, I know. Who cares? It's just a watch and I can ignore it. But deep down, I kind of do care. And if someone like me who understands this fitness stuff cares, how does that bode for the general population of folks who just want to get in shape?

The Solution

No, I am not going to throw out my Apple Watch (or give it away, as a bunch of you suggested on Twitter) but I am definitely tempering my relationship with it. My watch is not the boss of me any more than I believe it holds the secret to my health and well being. I believe we can use smartwatches, fitness trackers and pedometers for encouragement and as a measuring tool (albeit a blunt tool) to keep us on the straight and narrow but we must also beware that it is not infallible and doesn't always have our best interest in its cold, digital heart.

And there it goes! Telling me that it is "Time to stand!" Well, the joke's on you, watch. I have been standing this whole time—at my standing workstation. But your point is taken. It is certainly time to do something more dynamic than standing here typing. So, thank you, watch, for reminding me that I have been static and still for too long. It is time for this Get-Fit Guy to grab a movement snack!

For more fitness info, tracking tips, and to join the overlord conversation, head over to Facebook.com/GetFitGuy or twitter.com/getfitguy.

Also don't forget to subscribe to the Get-Fit Guy podcast on Apple Podcasts, StitcherSpotify, Google Play or via RSS.

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Brock Armstrong Get-Fit Guy

Brock Armstrong was the host of the Get-Fit Guy podcast between 2017 and 2021. He is a certified AFLCA Group Fitness Leader with a designation in Portable Equipment, NCCP and CAC Triathlon Coach, and a TnT certified run coach. He is also on the board of advisors for the Primal Health Coach Institute and a guest faculty member of the Human Potential Institute.