How does watch decide if you're exercising?

Discussion in 'Apple Watch Apps' started by Nmeyrick, Apr 26, 2015.

  1. Nmeyrick macrumors member

    Apr 10, 2015
    The info on the website says the middle activity ring counts 30 mins a day off exercise at our above a brisk walk - but does anyone know how it determines this? I can't find anything anywhere saying what criteria it uses. Obviously if you do a workout it's easy but it also says it will pick up exercise through your day.

    I had a pretty active day in the park yesterday clocking up 16k steps and 800 calories but only just met my 30 mins. I was walking for hours at a time, much of it briskly but sometimes got no credit at all when I checked. This makes me wonder if it's using a minimum heart rate threshold, but as it only read every 10 mins if you're not doing a workout you could have a raised heart rate for 10 mins before it registers.

    Anyone have any idea?
  2. Julien macrumors G4


    Jun 30, 2007
    I'm guessing accelerometer and maybe even some HR monitoring.
  3. ChrisS1081 macrumors newbie

    Apr 10, 2015
    I went for a walk for like an hour and 1/2 yesterday and it only registered me for 18 min of exercise. I am pushing a wheelchair so my arms aren't really moving. But I did do a little jogging in between walking. Maybe it only counts the jogging as exercise not walking?
  4. Nmeyrick thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 10, 2015
    I wondered if it was using heart rate but that doesn't seem to be the case, at least when your not using the workout app. Today I was less active than yesterday getting less calories and less steps, but got more exercise for less effort. The main difference from yesterday is that yesterday i was pushing my daughters stroller so moving my arms less so I suspect this is a big part of it.

    I tried to test my theory that it was using heart so when I'd been pretty active and just been given credit for 5 mins I checked my heart rate glance but infact the last reading was an hour ago so that didn't seem to factor.
  5. ChrisS1081 macrumors newbie

    Apr 10, 2015
    Yea I mowed my yard today and it said 40 min of exercise. Yesterday I walked for an hour and 1/2 and got 18 min.
  6. mathewbhavnani macrumors member

    Apr 24, 2015
    I don't usually feel very comfortable wearing the watch when I go to the gym....I do bring my iPhone so I'm wondering if the activity app will function just the same? And sync up with the watch when it is in range? Or do I have to wear the watch for the activity app to work?

    Also when using weather as a complication on watch face, I heard it keeps location services on at all times on the phone therefore draining battery, as opposed to when it isn't a complication and location services aren't on at all this true?
  7. firewood macrumors 604

    Jul 29, 2003
    Silicon Valley
    When pushing a wheelchair, your wrist is barely moving more than the person sitting in the wheelchair.
  8. negatv1 macrumors 6502

    Aug 12, 2005
    Turns out playing the drums registers as working out to the Apple Watch.
  9. OCDMacGeek macrumors 6502a


    Jul 19, 2007
    How does watch decide if you're exercising?

    I went for a strenuous 2 mile bike ride and I know my heart rate was way up, but the activity app didn't register it as exercise. (Strenuous because it was uphill.)
  10. Nmeyrick thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 10, 2015
    Exercise definitely seems to be based on arm movements when not using the workout app, hence riding a bike or pushing a wheelchair or stroller don't register whereas standing still and shaking out laundry did!

    For bike riding if you open the workout app I believe that will check your heart rate continuously and will probably use that to determine if you're exercising
  11. Roy Hobbs macrumors 68000

    Roy Hobbs

    Apr 29, 2005
    Use the Workout outdoor cycling and it will register the entire ride.
  12. Jd3774life macrumors regular


    Oct 28, 2013
    Kansas City
    Did you go to the workout app on the watch and select "Outdoor Cycling" before starting your bike ride?

    I was at a Theme Park Saturday and walked for 8+ hours and got only about 6 minutes of "Exercise" but played basketball for about 10 minutes Yesterday and it registered 8 minutes of exercise and I DIDN'T use the workout app for either day.
  13. TARDIS Pilot, Apr 27, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2015

    TARDIS Pilot macrumors newbie

    Apr 27, 2015
    I've had the same issue. Had a 30 minute walk with my dog yesterday and it registered 18 minutes of exercise.

    On a treadmill today for 30 minutes I selected "indoor walk" but it only registered four minutes of exercise. I had my iPhone in my pocket but I was also using a standing desk with my laptop (it's a treadmill at work). Does your arm really have to move that much?

    EDIT: I should say I started both of those sessions in the Workout app, the walk with my dog as an Outdoor Walk and in the treadmill as an Indoor Walk.
  14. John6Plus macrumors 6502


    Sep 19, 2014
    Holland, MI
    Doesn't seem to be the case.

    Fitbit has similar issues in automatically detecting exercise, they even cite the issue of pushing a cart or stroller. You can go back and retroactively tag a length of time as exercise though, and it will give you the stats for that period. It still won't count parts of the "exercise" period as activity if you weren't moving enough though.

    It's especially bad at thinking you were doing anything other than watching TV while riding a bike (this is the Charge HR) so I use Strava for cycling which, unlike Fitbit, at least they deposit their info into Apple Health. Hopefully there will be better data analysis/integration for HealthKit data than there currently is. The UI for HK is dreadful.
  15. James Baldwin macrumors regular

    Apr 21, 2015
    Right now (don't have the watch yet) if I go for a walk the iPhone's health app does a good job of registering steps and distance, if I have my phone on me will it still do so or will the watch override it with its seemingly faulty criteria for what counts as exercise?

    I go for 8-9km walks a day with my phone for music, if i now go with my watch and phone will these 8-9km get logged?
  16. acosmichippo macrumors regular

    May 7, 2008
    I had the same problem yesterday on the elliptical (arms were moving, just not as freely as a run or walk). Did 60 minutes, and my heart rate was definitely over 120 the entire time. Watch only registered 3 minutes of exercise.

    I did have the resistance up pretty high, so the strides were slower. Maybe if I lower resistance to increase the speed it would help.
  17. BD1 macrumors 6502

    Jun 27, 2007
    One thing to keep in mind is if you do NOT have the workout app actively recording, the HR monitor is recording your HR every 10 minutes. So you could have 10 minutes of active time in your target HR zone on only get 1 minute of credit.

    What I don't know is if once you are in your target HR zone if the AW starts recording your HR more frequently for a bit. Worth testing.....

    When you have started a workout in the workout app, then AW records your HR every 5 seconds.

    You can see all of this in the iPhone health app.

    I have found the AW HR monitor to be very accurate compared chest straps.
  18. Texastoad macrumors newbie


    Nov 7, 2015
    #19 - explains all.

    Has to do with arm movement. Check the area on the "Activity App"
  19. Easttime macrumors 6502a

    Jun 17, 2015
    Missed this bit about calibrating. My guess is that means assessing heart rate response to exercise, together with motion detection using GPS and accelerometer?
  20. Matthew9559 macrumors 6502a


    Apr 7, 2007
    Cleveland, OH
    There's an app called Sync Solver that will move Fitbit data into the Health Kit app. It's kind of annoying because you have to manually sync the data but it may be a temporary solution until Fitbit adds their data to HealthKit which I hope they eventually do. I used the app to move my data initially and it worked great in my transition.
  21. cbronfman macrumors 6502

    Feb 24, 2008
    Washington DC
    Lower the arm that wears the watch and swing it periodically. I find the exercise depends on heart rate, but also how many muscles I'm using. Like if I kneel down to make a bed and then lean over to pull covers, move pillows (heavy TempurPedic, I get some exercise credit). Stand ONLY seems to register if I'm standing during the few minute period my watch wants me to stand. So I could have been standing before then - but only the few minutes after the watch says "time to stand" counts. I also find it only registers IF my left arm (the one with the watch is pointing down. If it's grasping a table to the handlebar of my wheelchair - it doesn't count. That's why if you can periodically let go of the wheelchair (without putting the person in it at risk) with one arm - it would help to get a reading.
  22. aliensporebomb, Dec 2, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2015

    aliensporebomb macrumors 68000


    Jun 19, 2005
    Minneapolis, MN, USA, Urth
    I remember reading an article about some exercise physiologists put a bank of sensors on a drummer for a well known band and figured out during the course of a two and a half hour show it was like doing a pretty good cardio session and they checked his v02 max among other things and found he was very fit just from playing kit drums. Not bad. I can't recall the band but it was a well known one.

    Here we go! It was Clem Burke of the band Blondie:
  23. Southern Dad macrumors 68000

    Southern Dad

    May 23, 2010
    Shady Dale, Georgia
    When the weather is bad, I go for a walk in a store or mall. If I am pushing a grocery cart it does not register it as exercise and often doesn't count all the steps.
  24. cbronfman macrumors 6502

    Feb 24, 2008
    Washington DC
    There appears to be a recent change (don't ask me how( in exercise calculation. The workout app gives one figure, but the activity sometimes shows a different (less long one). Don't know if there is s threshold heart-rate that has to be met. First time I noticed it was yesterday - today, the two were consistent. But then I tried as hard as I could throughout the workout. I'm still frustrated by the absence of any way of entering swim data. 3 days a week I swim and to meet my "move goal", I either have to tack on an additional workout on the exercise bike or FAIL. Seduced by my watches happy dings when I meet my goal.

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