A person tying shoelaces and wearing an Apple Watch.
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Fitness tracking is one of the most compelling reasons to buy an Apple Watch. Whether you’re training for a marathon, trying to get in shape, or just move around more, Apple’s wearable can help you hit your fitness goals.

Hit Your Move, Stand, and Exercise Goals

At the heart of Apple’s fitness tracking is the ring system. The three rings each represent a goal for the day: Move, Stand, and Exercise. To fill the rings, you perform each of these activities.

The Move ring tracks your active energy, which is the energy you burn while you do other things in addition to your body’s normal basal functions. If you want to adjust your Move goal, launch the Activity app on your Apple Watch, press the screen firmly (Force Touch), and then choose “Change Move Goal.”

As you meet your Move goal each day, you start a Move streak. The longer your streak, the more compelled you’ll be to maintain it and fill up your move ring.

A Move Goal in the Apple Activity App.

The Stand ring measures how many hours of the day you’ve stood up and moved around. Your Apple Watch will send you a notification when it’s time to move. If you follow the notifications, you’ll fill up your Stand ring, and, hopefully, stave off any health issues associated with a sedentary lifestyle. You can’t change your Stand goal—it’s 12 hours per day for everyone.

You also can’t change your Exercise goal, which requires 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day. Your workouts count toward this total, so if you set a 30-minute walk, you’ll achieve your goal for the day. Your Apple Watch also detects any periods of intense activity (based on your heart rate and movement data) and logs this as exercise, too.

The Apple Watch is very good about reminding you to meet your daily targets. You get Stand reminders all day and Move reminders let you know how long you have to walk to close your ring.

It all comes down to how committed you are to closing your rings, and whether you follow your watch’s reminders.

Count Your Steps and Distance Walked

If you want to monitor walking, Launch the Activity screen, and then scroll down to see your current daily step count and the distance you’ve covered. You can check these any time during the day. It’s especially interesting to take a look after a particularly active day—you’ll see immediately why your feet hurt so much.

Step Count Data on the Apple Watch.

This information is logged in the Health app on your iPhone. Head to Browse > Activity and tap “Steps” or “Walking + Running Distance” to see your walking activity on a graph. After you’ve logged enough data, you can see how your activity levels fluctuate over the month or year. You can use this data to isolate the times of the year you should try to move more.

Beneath the graph, they are some highlights based on activity data. You see trends, like whether you walked more or less this week than you did last week, and what your weekly average is.

This information can help you change your daily routine, so you move more. For example, you might start getting off the bus a stop or two early and walk the last few blocks home.

Track Your Workouts

The Apple Watch can track most workout types, and these all count toward your daily Move goal. Get in the habit of logging your workouts and treating everyday activities like workouts, too. For example, if you walk to the store for a loaf of bread, it counts as moderate exercise and can help you meet your Move goal for the day.

Tracked Workout stats in the Apple Activity app.

If the exercise you want to track isn’t listed in the workout app, try “Other.” This awards active energy based on the pace of a brisk walk. As your heart rate increases, the Apple Watch awards you more active energy. You can also use this to log household chores, like vacuuming, yard work, active video games, or even playing with your dog or cat.

After you finish logging an “Other” workout, you can choose from a huge number of labels, including “Mind & Body” or “Play,” but also more specific activities, like “Archery” or “Strength Training.”

Set Workout Goals for Training

In the Workouts app, you can also set training-based goals. To do so, launch Workouts, scroll down to the activity you want to log, and then tap the ellipsis (. . .) next to it. You then see the following options:

  • Open: Log a regular, open workout with no goals.
  • Kilojoules/Calories: Set a kilojoule or calorie amount, and then work toward that goal.
  • Distance: Set a distance you’d like to cover, and your Apple Watch will track it.
  • Time: Set how long you would like to work out. Your Apple Watch will notify you when you’ve hit your goal.

Depending on the goal you set, the Apple Watch provides updates as you work out. After you complete your goal, the workout doesn’t end, but you continue logging activity until you decide it’s time to stop. As your fitness improves, you can set new goals, work out harder, and cover more distance and spend longer doing so.

The "Outdoor Cycle" options in the Workouts app.

For certain activities, like cycling or running, training-based goals can be especially useful because you don’t have to check your progress on your watch constantly.

Share and Compete with Others

If you take competition seriously, you might want to share your Activity data with others who track their fitness and exercise on Apple Watch. To do so, launch the Activity app on your iPhone, tap “Sharing,” and then tap the plus sign (+) to invite someone.

You can then see the other person’s Activity data under your Apple Watch Activity app (swipe right-to-left to view it). Tap the person’s name to see a full breakdown of his daily activity, including any workouts he’s registered, the distance he’s covered, and the number of steps he’s walked. You’ll also receive notifications when your contact completes a workout, but you can disable these via the Sharing section of the Activity app if you prefer.

You can also choose to compete with others. Competition uses points rather than energy expended. This allows you to compete with people who have very different Move goals and daily energy expenditure than you do. You score points relative to your Move goal, and any awards you earn while you compete counting toward your total.

The only downside is you have to find someone with an Apple Watch to compete. If your partner or friends have them, it’s great; if not, you’ll just have to compete with yourself.

Rewarded for Progress

As you progress and record more activity, you receive “awards,” which you can view on the Awards tab of the Activity app on your iPhone. There are weekly, monthly, and one-off awards. You’ll get a ping on your wrist each time you earn one.

Awards in the Activity app.

There are also limited-edition awards, like the “Heart Month Challenge” in February, for setting new records on your Move or Exercise rings, and awards you can earn each week, like the “Perfect Week” awards for Move, Exercise, and Stand.

There’s not a lot to it, but it’s a pleasing way to record your fitness achievements. If you’re starting your fitness journey from scratch, these awards can show you the progress you’ve made and motivate you to do more.

Third-Party Apps

One of the best things about your Apple Watch is you can work out without having to hold or carry your iPhone. You can also pair it with third-party apps to help you move more.

There’s an Apple Watch companion app for just about every sport or activity. You can track cycling with Strava or even devise new bike routes with Komoot. If you want to add a running partner to your wrist, check out the Nike Run Club—it features auto-guided runs and customized coaching plans.

For bodyweight exercises that don’t require a gym or equipment, give Sworkit a go. Seven is a seven-minute workout app you can use right from your wrist. Pocket Yoga has over 27 different sessions of varying difficulty and duration.

If you go to the gym and want to shake things up, Gymaholic can help you learn the moves to master a new fitness program. If you spend more time on the fairway than you do on a treadmill, Hole19 is the perfect golfing companion; it allows you to score and track your progress.

A Great Reason to Buy an Apple Watch

Fitness is just one area in which the Apple Watch thrives, thanks to its heart rate sensors and GPS tracking abilities. You can also use it to take calls, talk to Siri, organize your digital life, and (of course) check the time.

If you’re looking for more reasons to get yourself an Apple Watch, we got ’em!

RELATED: 20 Apple Watch Tips & Tricks You Have to Know

Tim Brookes Tim Brookes
Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He's invested in the Apple ecosystem, with experience covering Macs, iPhones, and iPads for publications like Zapier and MakeUseOf.
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