If you are considering buying a shiny new Apple Watch Series 2, you may be asking yourself if it can really allow you to get fit. Particularly if you’ve noticed the current headlines claiming that fitness trackers do not work. So what does science really have to say about the fitness device? I chose to look into the science behind Apple Watch fitness assumptions. There are two important functions for an effective exercise tracker. First, it must inform you to do the proper things. Secondly, it should convince you to follow that advice. After all, the best fitness information from the world remains useless if you do not follow it.
Apple Watch makes three recommendations to your health: Sit less, move more and get some exercise. That is exactly what the stand, move and exercise bands in Apple’s Action app are intended to track. Is there actually any evidence that achieving these three goals will enhance your wellbeing? I asked that question to Cardiogram CEO Brandon Ballinger, who has collected plenty of information on whether Apple Watch owners have wholesome tickers.
Ballinger and his staff recently conducted a study examining the resting heart rate of 6,668 participants using its cloud management system on the Apple watch device. Your resting heart rate is a measurement of how fast your heart is beating when you’re resting and relaxed, such as when you’ve just awakened in the morning. Why did they seem at resting heart rate? The Mayo Clinic stated that, generally, a lower heart rate at rest implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness. Which sounds like a fantastic thing, and the great news is that it is exactly what Ballinger’s team discovered.
As you can see from the results, test participants that clocked more minutes of exercise on the green ring, and calories on the red ring, tended to have lower resting heart rates. Ballinger stated that on average, each 18 minutes of exercise translated into a 1 bpm reduction in resting heart rate. Equivalently, 178 calories of motion per day translates into a 1 bpm decrease as recorded within the cloud management system. This doesn’t prove that the connection is “causal.” Just because the statistics show that those who do more exercise on average have lower resting heart rates, that doesn’t prove that using the Apple Watch helped. Perhaps they were more active because they already were fit and therefore had lower resting heart rates, for example.
Ballinger’s research indicates that Apple’s three goals may help you lower your resting heart rate. However, are these goals the best advice you can get, and is there some other action you should do to improve your health? To answer this, I compared the action goals with the World Health Organization’s recommended levels of physical activity for adults aged 18 to 64, which can be:
Do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, or 75 minutes in vigorous intensity, each week. This activity ought to be sustained in sessions of at least 10 minutes’ duration. You’ll become even more health benefit if you increase the length of your action.
The World Health Organization doesn’t include standing in its own physical activity recommendations, but it does highlight the risks of a sedentary lifestyle, asserting a lack of exercise could very well be one of the 10 leading causes of death and disability in the world. If you really want to know if Apple Watch helps people get in shape, you will need to specify precisely what you mean by “in shape.” Then you must carry out a “randomized controlled trial”, where test participants receive randomly assigned to two groups; one with and one without Apple Watches, to determine which group finds the maximum success. Until this sort of research is conducted, we simply don’t know for certain.
If all this is beginning to sound a little wishy-washy, then excellent. Because the reality is that available science simply cannot tell you if an Apple Watch can help you to get in shape. Finally, that is down to you. Asking if fitness trackers function is the wrong question, in my estimation. It is like asking if a fork and knife will feed you; of course not. But if you use them correctly, they can let you eat. In the same way, if you use your Apple Watch correctly, it can allow you to get fit.