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Apple Watch and fitness: A couch potato's perspective

Marco Tabini | July 3, 2015
Can wearable technology help exercise haters get off the couch?

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As Macworld's resident couch potato, I must confess that I'm a little nonplussed by the fact that so much of the coverage that surrounds the Apple Watch's fitness features seems to be the work of people who appear to have a... disconcerting familiarity with fitness itself.

Of course, I understand the need for expert opinion, but it seems to me that those who already love to run, bike, and swim would do well at their sports of choice even if all the technology they had at their disposal consisted of a pencil and some paper.

What about the rest of us--the common folks whose hatred for exercise is matched only by their love for a comfortable couch and a bowl of chips? Can Apple's latest gadget help us get a better handle on our health?

From couch to coach

Back in February, I wrote a little piece about how a few HealthKit-compatible devices helped me better track metrics like my weight and blood pressure. At the time, I predicted that the advent of the Apple Watch would bring even more improvements to my lifestyle--and, actually, I wasn't disappointed.

But first things first. I'm happy to report that I continue to be very happy with my HealthKit adventure. The first thing I do in the morning is still to step on my trusted Withings Body Analyzer, and, at least once a week, I use a wireless cuff to take my blood pressure.

To these measurements, I now add information on my heart rate, which the Apple Watch collects almost continuously throughout the day. This data has proven to be surprisingly useful: On a daily basis, it helps me keep track of times when I exercise, and, in the longer term, it allows me to measure my ability to sustain more strenuous activities without, so to speak, breaking a sweat.

Will the real Mr. Tabini stand up?

I'm not a huge fan of the achievements and gamification trend that is often used to reward a person's activity--I simply find the artificial, Richard Simmons-level cheerfulness that seems to pervade most fitness apps off-putting in the extreme.

However, I must say that Apple has done a fantastic job with the Watch's fitness indicators. The device's three-ringed display gives me an at-a-glance look at three important daily metrics--active calories consumed, exercise, and stand time, and the achievements that can be unlocked through the Fitness app are thoughtful without being cheesy.

Interestingly, I find that the stand indicator has had the biggest impact on my daily routine. Like many people these days, I spend most of my time at a desk, and, when I become absorbed in a task, I tend to sit still for hours on end, oblivious to most of what happens around me. With the Watch, however, a gentle tap on my wrist reminds me to get up every now and then, take a quick break, and walk around a bit. It may seem gimmicky, but it really makes you feel fresher at the end of a long workday.


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