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Various graphics depicting fitness items like water and weights Various graphics depicting fitness items like water and weights

How to Use Your Apple Watch for Better Health

Get The Most Out of Your Apple Watch’s Fitness Features

 

When it was first announced, the Apple Watch puzzled many longtime Apple fans. Between their iPhones and iPads, what would a wearable technology provide them? The smartwatch industry was just at its infancy, but it became clear that while the Apple Watch provided connectivity and simplicity, it was the mark of a new level of fitness tracking. Today, the Apple Watch is a must-have device for health and fitness -- both for those simply trying to start getting fit/losing weight and those training for triathlons/marathons.

Why does the Apple Watch have this reputation? In one word, it’s the ecosystem. Apple’s platform is the most visible and celebrated, and thus its ecosystem is the most robust. With the iPhone or iPad, finding the right game or productivity app is key to day-to-day life. Similarly, the Apple Watch provides access to many apps, and users can easily find the right app for exercise, weight loss, and health tracking. Apple strongly supports these developers and companies by providing frameworks like HealthKit and ResearchKit, which gives them access to rich data.

Simply put, Apple’s attention to detail, its outreach to partners and developers, and powerful marketing get all elements on board into a cohesive ecosystem. From their own internal quality control to amassing a strong group of app developers to rewarding those developers with a large and loyal audience, Apple knows how to get people to fall in love with their products from end to end.

The Apple Watch brought streamlined fitness in a way that smartphones simply couldn’t. When you see people using smartphones at the gym, they’re usually in armbands, belt clips, or pockets. This makes it difficult to access when starting/stopping apps or choosing music, and armband covers are often clunky when it comes to touch sensitivity. With the Apple Watch, everything became as simple as a turn of the wrist, finally delivering easy access to your apps and music. Distance runners in particular benefited from this, as it meant accessing apps without the difficulty of struggling with armband touch recognition while keeping pace.

All of that arrived with the first generation of the Apple Watch. What can we expect from future iterations now that it's established? When Apple announced the Apple Watch 2, for many weekend warriors, it was exactly what they wanted to hear.

The Apple Watch 2’s new features include a built-in GPS for improved tracking and water resistance. The original Apple Watch’s water resistance was rated as IPX7 under IEC standard 60529 -- essentially, resistant for the shower, washing hands, and other everyday tasks, but not for swimming. The Series 2 watches will now be waterproofed up to 50 meters, allowing swimmers to use it for tracking during their laps at the pool. In one clever bit of engineering, the new iteration will even use the speaker to eject any lingering water.

The new GPS also opens the door to mapping outdoor activity, and that means you no longer need to bring your phone with you. Previously, tracking still required your smartphone’s GPS to track movements. Now, you can head out the door with simply your watch -- no smartphone or armband required. In addition, the new Apple Watch also allows for loading of local music, which is another reason to leave the phone at home.

Let’s Work Out

On its own, the Apple Watch stays connected with your devices while telling you the time and monitoring your vital signs such as your heart rate. However, it’s when you tap into the right apps that it truly becomes a key part of any exercise routine. Much like your smartphone, the potential of the Apple Watch is unlimited; it solely depends on how you use it. At Monowear, we’ve considered the exercise aspect of the Apple Watch since its launch and here are our recommended apps to get the most out of your work out:

Activity:
Activity is the most basic workout app you can use. It’s designed to compete with Fitbits and help you set movement goals and keep them, and by using the Watch's native features, it tracks your movement and activity to help you stay on a daily pace.

Workout:
This native app works standalone on the watch -- no iPhone connectivity required. Set your walk, run, cycle, or other goals and Workout uses things like the heart rate monitor to track your progress.

Strava:
Strava is an excellent community tracker, and for many people, exercise is all about community. With Strava, your freinds’ activity can be tracked on a map, and you'll earn rewards for consistent use and activity.

Apple Watch Maintenance

Now that you’ve got your apps ready, what else do you need to do for your Apple Watch? When you use a smartphone for your workout, you have the luxury of putting it in an armband. In most cases, that will protect it from the rigors of a workout as well as the elements. For general maintenance, though, there are other avenues to consider.

The Apple Watch is designed to withstand a lot but it's not invulnerable. Thus, it's important to take care of it appropriately during your workouts. The Apple Watch's quick release button makes it easy to switch bands based on your situation. On hot days or during vigorous workouts, switching bands helps minimize skin irritation while keeping the fit snug and tight. The quick release also makes for easy cleaning, which is a good idea for general maintenance.

Switching watch bands for workouts is particularly key if you're going to be using the Apple Watch 2’s extended water resistance for swimming. This is an area where it's critical to examine the quality of the band to ensure that it can withstand underwater conditions. If you purchase a cheap knock-off watch band, pay extra attention to this as those bands are known to be manufactured without much -- if any -- quality control oversight. That means that the band's connections may loosen or degrade underwater -- and that's the last place you want your Apple Watch getting loose.

If you feel like that’s over thinking a simple watch band, don’t underestimate its importance. In fact, the actual watch band is one critical aspect of keeping your Apple Watch safe and sound. A watch band is designed to hold your device in place while providing a snug fit around your wrist. It should feel sturdy, even while running or working out. In general, this means going with a name-brand watch band. Knock-off watch bands are easy to find and are often at extreme bargain prices -- sometimes only a dollar or two -- but using these put your watch at risk.

Keep in mind that the wear and tear on a watch band during a workout is not the same as, say, wearing it around the office or at home. During weight training, you’ll be doing repetitive motions while producing sweat. During a long run, the watch will constantly be in motion, putting strain on the clasp and the band’s materials. During an aerobic workout, the band will face all sorts of movement in different directions. Knock-off watch bands have been known to use cheap materials while being manufactured without quality control. That means things can come lose or degrade quickly under high-impact environments. If a clasp comes loose or if the band is damaged, that means that the watch may fall -- and in a gym or out on a run, there are plenty of ways to damage your expensive technology.

At Monowear, we were very conscious of the exercise aspect when designing our watch bands. When developing our bands, we looked at the current market and considered the variables involved with both user and situation. Strength, longevity, flexibility; all of these elements were considered, in addition to having a number of designs that looked as well as they worked. For the workout crowd in particular, this is particularly evident in the Monowear Nylon Active band: a lightweight material, quick on/off Velcro straps, and stitched leather for strength. These are the qualities you'll want in a workout watch band, regardless of brand.

The Future of Fitness

Smart wearables are the future -- and the present -- of fitness. Apple is trying to stay ahead of the curve, first by designing an Apple Watch that competes with the Fitbit market, then with the launch of the upgraded Apple Watch 2. In the end, though, these devices will only help you as much as let them; that means taking advantage of their robust app catalog and providing proper maintenance to both the watch and the band. In a way, the longevity of your Apple Watch is a bit like working out: the more you put into it, the more you'll get out of it.