Want to get fit with Apple Watch in 2019? Try these Workout and Activity features

Apple Watch continues to improve as an all-day fitness tracker each year. Newer Apple Watches add optional cellular connectivity and longer battery life, and older Apple Watches benefit from new software updates that add useful features. Want to use your Apple Watch to improve your overall health in 2019? Start by personalizing your Apple Watch Workout and Activity features to you.

Update watchOS

First, make sure you’re running the latest version of watchOS, the software that powers your Apple Watch. Some features require newer versions of watchOS to work, and all features work best when your Apple Watch is up-to-date. Our step-by-step guide can help you check what version of watchOS your Apple Watch is running and help you update to the latest version.

You’ll also want to know which Apple Watch model you have before going forward. Some features require newer Apple Watch hardware even if you have the latest software. Our guide can help you identify which Apple Watch model you have — note that the original Apple Watch model does not run the latest watchOS 5 software which introduces many of these features.

Set Your Move Goal

Apple Watch tracks your activity throughout the day with three goals represented by Activity rings: the green exercise ring closes when you log 30 minutes of intense activity, the blue stand or roll ring closes when you move around for at least 1 minute of 12 different hours, and the red move ring closes when you meet your personal active calories burned goal.

You set your move goal when you first set up the Activity app on the Apple Watch, or you can raise or lower your move goal anytime with a Force Touch (deep press) in the Activity app on the Apple Watch. For more details, see our step-by-step tutorial.

What should your move goal be? It varies based on your goals and lifestyle. My general advice is to find a 30 minute workout that you can repeat daily (like an outdoor walk or run or using a workout machine like an elliptical or rower), then see how many calories you typically burn in a day in addition to your workout, then set your target around the final number.

My move goal is usually set to 500 — a number that I only achieve with a 30 minute workout on most days.

Use an Activity Face

There are lots of Apple Watch faces that show your Activity rings in detail without launching the Activity app. Activity Digital and Infograph Modular (with the Activity complication centered) are my favorites. Activity Analog includes two modes, one with rings combined and one with rings separated and numbers listed within.

The Siri watch face can also show your Activity rings either as a complication or as an information source. This face also shows heart rate data throughout the day as well as recovery heart rate data after a workout.

You don’t have to use your Activity face full-time either. Apple Watch lets you customize and save multiple watch faces. Simply swipe from one edge of the watch face to the other to quickly switch between watch faces.

Customize Workouts

Apple’s Workout app on the Apple Watch supports a variety of workouts. You can customize what metrics your watch shows during each workout, choosing between single or multiple metrics, and each workout can show up to five metrics during an active session. You can adjust these settings any time in the Watch app on the iPhone under the Workout section on the My Watch tab.

If you use multiple metrics, you can change which metric is in focus during a workout by spinning the Digital Crown on the Apple Watch from the summary screen. You can also set a specific goal for each workout before starting a session. Just pick a duration or calorie goal from the three-green-dots button on the workout tile before you start.

Want to mark a segment during a workout? Simply double-tap your watch screen while the Workout app is active to save a segment, then view segmented data in the Activity app on the iPhone after a workout.

Apple Watch also supports automatically pausing running workouts as an option, and you can optionally pause any workout by pressing the Digital Crown and side button together during a session. Both features can be toggled on or off in the Workout section of the Watch app on iPhone.

Apple Watch also recently gained the ability to remind you to start and stop certain workouts if it detects activity that you may have forgotten to start or stop logging. You can turn start and stop reminders on and off separately in the Workout section of the Watch app on iPhone.

For best results, you should start and stop workouts manually so Apple Watch can capture the most accurate data without wasting battery life or missing activity data.

If you workout at a gym with new exercise machines, you will want to turn on Detect Gym Equipment. This feature lets the Apple Watch talk to fitness machines that work with GymKit, Apple’s special feature that lets Apple Watch sync data securely and privately with modern equipment like treadmills and ellipticals.

Apple Watch shares data like heart rate information with the machine, and the machine can share details like distance traveled and pace. The result is more accurate workout results captured. GymKit equipment is still pricey so you’ll likely want to find a gym that has new equipment to try it out. You can toggle the Detect Gym Equipment setting off if you don’t have access to GymKit equipment.

Finally, you can automatically play a music playlist from your Apple Watch when you start a workout. Just assign the playlist from the Workout section of the Watch app on the iPhone ahead of time.

This can be a playlist that you create yourself if you have a collection of power songs that motivate you, or you can select an Apple Music playlist that updates regularly to avoid hearing the same music on repeat.

You can also quickly access music controls from the Workout app on the Apple Watch during a session by swiping to the last card. Any audio playing from iPhone or Apple Watch during a workout will appear here including music, podcasts, stations, and more.

Starting Workouts

So you’re finally ready to start your workout. You can launch the Workout app and scroll through the list of exercises, or you can just tell your watch what you want to do if you already know — literally.

Just raise your wrist and say “Hey Siri,” when the screen lights up, then say something like “start a 30 minute outdoor run” and the Workout app will launch and start a countdown to your exercise session with the goal set.

Want to complete multiple exercises in a single session? Swipe to the first page of the Workout app during an exercise, tap the + button, and pick a new workout to start. The Workout app will combine each exercise into a single session without needing to start and stop over and over.

You can also quickly launch the Workout app from your watch face with a complication, or ask Siri to launch the Workout app to open it without starting a session. You can also use the Dock to launch apps with a click of the side button, or arrange your app grid with the Workout app near the center for easy access.

You can also use apps from the App Store like Nike Run Club, Workouts++, Strava, and many more to log workouts, fill your Activity rings, and save sessions to the Activity app on the iPhone for viewing later. Have a favorite workout app for your Apple Watch? Share your pick in the comments.

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Avatar for Zac Hall Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news for 9to5Mac and hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour and 9to5Mac Watch Time podcasts.