Health and fit­ness with iOS

Make the most of the bio­met­ric tech in your iPhone or iPad

Mac Format - - FITNESS TECH -

Ap­ple opened up the iPhone’s bio­met­ric po­ten­tial in 2010 with the release of iOS 4 and a soft­ware frame­work called CoreMo­tion, which al­lowed de­vel­op­ers to ac­cess move­ment data cap­tured by the de­vice’s mul­ti­ple sen­sors. But it was three more re­cent devel­op­ments that sig­nalled a turn­ing point in Ap­ple’s sup­port for health and fit­ness track­ing.

The first came in 2013 with the an­nounce­ment of the iPhone 5s and its ded­i­cated M7 mo­tion co­pro­ces­sor, which cap­tures mo­tion data from the de­vice’s ac­celerom­e­ter, gy­ro­scope and com­pass. The sec­ond was iOS 8, which brought us Ap­ple’s much-vaunted Health app – a cen­tralised hub for stor­ing all your health data, cat­e­gorised by move­ment, weight, nu­tri­tion, blood pres­sure, body tem­per­a­ture and a ream of other an­a­lyt­ics.

The third de­vel­op­ment was the in­tro­duc­tion of Ap­ple Watch in 2015 (see page 81 for more), the tech gi­ant’s late-to-the-game smart­watch that now com­petes in a well-es­tab­lished world of wear­able tech­nol­ogy.

Health track­ing

If you own an iPhone 5s or later then you can al­ready track your ba­sic ac­tiv­ity through the Health app; sim­ply car­ry­ing your iOS de­vice on your per­son lets you track num­ber of steps taken, dis­tance cov­ered and calo­ries burned. If you own an iPhone 6 (or even an iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 4) you can track stairs climbed too, thanks to the more ad­vanced M8 co­pro­ces­sor in th­ese de­vices and the ad­di­tion of a ded­i­cated barom­e­ter sen­sor that mea­sures el­e­va­tion changes. And if you have an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus, an in­te­grated M9 mo­tion pro­ces­sor does all th­ese things con­tin­u­ally with­out gob­bling bat­tery life.

Th­ese track­ing fea­tures are turned on by de­fault in iOS 9, but if you want to turn them off you can do so by open­ing the Set­tings app, tap­ping Pri­vacy > Mo­tion & Fit­ness and tog­gling the switch next to Fit­ness Track­ing.

Stick with them though, be­cause the Health app is pretty use­less oth­er­wise. Open it and you’ll see the Dash­board – this is where a se­ries of graphs vi­su­alise tracked data above op­tions to browse them by day, week, month and year. You can edit the Dash­board to see only the in­for­ma­tion you’re in­ter­ested in: sim­ply tap the Health Data tab, se­lect a met­ric such as Fit­ness > Ac­tive En­ergy and then tog­gle the Show on Dash­board switch.

Third-party apps

Let’s be hon­est, Ap­ple’s Health app isn’t ter­ri­bly in­spir­ing. Thank­fully there are plenty of far more spritely (and free) third-party apps that ac­cess your iPhone’s mo­tion and GPS data which you can use in­stead. One of our favourites is UP by Jaw­bone (jaw­bone.com), due to its el­e­gant in­ter­face, a ‘Smart Coach’ that posts health and fit­ness ad­vice in your daily ac­tiv­ity feed, and its so­cial me­dia in­te­gra­tion, which en­ables you to ‘gam­ify’ your ac­tiv­ity by chal­leng­ing friends and fam­ily to ac­tiv­ity ‘du­els’.

For track­ing ex­er­cise with your iPhone, there’s Nike+ Run­ning (nike.com), which of­fers in-run au­dio feed­back, and logs dis­tance, time, el­e­va­tion and work­out in­ten­sity, plot­ting th­ese data points on a map. MapMyRun (mapmyrun. com) of­fers sim­i­lar in-depth analy­ses of your runs, but takes things fur­ther with 24/7 track­ing and log­ging op­tions for over 600 types of ac­tiv­ity. Both apps of­fer train­ing pro­grammes as in-app pur­chases if you want to take your fit­ness regime to the next level.

Keen cy­clists and as­pir­ing ath­letes on the other hand should check out MapMyRide (mapmyride.com) or Strava Run­ning and Cy­cling (strava.com), both of which of­fer sim­i­lar fea­tures to the apps above, but also ben­e­fit from rec­om­mended rid­ing routes and like-minded user com­mu­ni­ties.

Wear­ing wear­ables

If you’re in­ter­ested in a ded­i­cated wear­able to track your ac­tiv­ity then your op­tions are le­gion. The least ex­pen­sive we rec­om­mend is the Mis­Fit Flash (£25), a peb­ble-shaped de­vice that tracks steps, dis­tance and burned calo­ries, and dis­plays progress to­wards a pre-es­tab­lished goal us­ing a cir­cle of LEDs; it also mon­i­tors your sleep and lasts six months on a sin­gle bat­tery. The Withings Pulse Ox (£80) is the next step up and adds

How much you rely on bio­met­ric data in an ef­fort to im­prove your health and fit­ness is up to you

el­e­va­tion, on-de­mand heart rate and blood oxy­gen level mea­sure­ments to the typ­i­cal track­ing reper­toire. Then there’s Jaw­bone’s UP3 (£120): this wrist­band packs a bevy of skin and am­bi­ent tem­per­a­ture sen­sors, one which mea­sures rest­ing heart rate, but the rest don’t really de­liver much use­ful in­for­ma­tion, which is a shame, be­cause the UP app is so well made.

The lat­est con­tender is Moov Now (£60), an­other peb­ble-shaped sen­sor that tracks your daily ac­tiv­i­ties and acts as a ded­i­cated sports coach, with a host of mo­ti­va­tional train­ing plans. Sadly its iOS app isn’t so great, so our favourite re­mains the Fit­bit Charge HR wrist­band (£100), due to its clear OLED dis­play, in­com­ing call no­ti­fi­ca­tions, and el­e­va­tion, sleep, and all-day, on-de­mand heart rate track­ing – not to men­tion the ex­cel­lent Fit­bit app.

iOS in­te­gra­tion

Thanks to Ap­ple’s HealthKit API (see op­po­site) the Health app can sync with many third-party apps and de­vices, but the process of en­abling Health in­te­gra­tion dif­fers slightly de­pend­ing on what you’re us­ing. En­domondo app users, for in­stance, can go to Menu > Set­tings > Con­nect & Share > Health > Con­nect with Health, while own­ers of Jaw­bone or Mis­Fit de­vices can sync to Ap­ple Health by en­abling ac­cess in their tracker’s com­pan­ion app – or in the case of Fit­bit users, via a third-party sync so­lu­tion (sync­solver.com).

This is the real beauty of Ap­ple Health: its abil­ity to cor­ral data from mul­ti­ple sources and give you a com­pre­hen­sive bio­met­ric over­view. For ex­am­ple, your day could be­gin by step­ping on a Fit­bit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale (£85), sync­ing this mea­sure­ment to the Health app with Sync Solver, and then go­ing for a run wear­ing an Ap­ple Watch (from £299). On re­turn­ing home you might take a di­as­tolic and sys­tolic blood pres­sure read­ing us­ing Withings’ Wire­less Blood Pres­sure Mon­i­tor (£90) synced to Ap­ple Health. This would al­low you to view it along­side yes­ter­day’s blood pres­sure read­ing, check it against your heart rate and even com­pare it with an­other Smart Scale mea­sure­ment that re­vealed the ef­fects of a low-calo­rie diet you had synced from the UP app.

Of course, how much you rely on bio­met­ric data in an ef­fort to im­prove your health and fit­ness is really up to you. But it’s un­wise to use it to self-di­ag­nose, treat or mon­i­tor any med­i­cal con­di­tion with­out con­sult­ing your doc­tor first.

Stay on track with your fit­ness goals us­ing the ded­i­cated Ac­tiv­ity and Work­out apps on your Ap­ple Watch.

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