Sudden Change in Exercise Minutes in Activity App - Have You Seen a Recent Change?

newellj

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Original poster
Oct 15, 2014
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East of Eden
Starting Monday morning, my watch completely changed the amount of "exercise" it records in the Activity app. It is still recording movement accurately and completely, but the amount of exercise has changed dramatically - it basically isn't recording exercise minutes any more, even when the movement and heart rate are the same as earlier workouts.

I've spent ~ four hours with five Apple support techs, including two senior advisers. No one has any suggestions, other than the possibility of a silent update to the algorithms for counting "exercise" in the Activity app. Since the change happened on Monday and I've been on WatchOS 5.2.1 since it was pushed out in mid-May, it can't be a change from 5.2 to 5.2.1.

Has anyone else noticed a recent change in how "exercise" is report in the Activity app?
 

Newtons Apple

Suspended
Mar 12, 2014
22,757
15,227
Jacksonville, Florida
Unless you just did an update it should not have changed. I have noticed differences between one watch to another. My watch is doing about the same, when I walk one hour on the tread mill, it takes 10-15 minutes before it starts recording exercise.
 
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tobefirst

macrumors 601
Jan 24, 2005
4,127
1,264
St. Louis, MO
I reset my watch the other day – I'm having issues with messages coming through to the watch – and my exercise minutes have jumped dramatically. I do a lot of walking the hallways at work and it used to only tally a few minutes a day...Now it is much, much more.
 
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jbachandouris

macrumors 603
Aug 18, 2009
5,163
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Upstate NY
I have ALWAYS had problems with the exercise ring recording minutes. I would walk outside for an hour and barely get 30 minutes and I don't walk slow.
When I walk the inside of the mall and sometimes I'll be just about running and it STILL wouldn't give me credit. The walk from the car to the door will give me 1-2 minutes, but 40 minutes barely gets me more than 10 minutes if that.

I assume this is because I am a runner and my resting heart rate is normally low so it takes more to convince the watch I'm 'exercising.'

So, basically I HATE the exercise ring. I've had this problem with Series 2,3, and 4.

It hasn't gotten 'better' recently. 2 days this week it barely gave me any credit at all. Yet today, I went the Dr's and magically got 4 minutes and I haven't done a thing.
 

millerj123

macrumors 68020
Mar 6, 2008
2,043
1,616
I have ALWAYS had problems with the exercise ring recording minutes. I would walk outside for an hour and barely get 30 minutes and I don't walk slow.
When I walk the inside of the mall and sometimes I'll be just about running and it STILL wouldn't give me credit. The walk from the car to the door will give me 1-2 minutes, but 40 minutes barely gets me more than 10 minutes if that.

I assume this is because I am a runner and my resting heart rate is normally low so it takes more to convince the watch I'm 'exercising.'

So, basically I HATE the exercise ring. I've had this problem with Series 2,3, and 4.

It hasn't gotten 'better' recently. 2 days this week it barely gave me any credit at all. Yet today, I went the Dr's and magically got 4 minutes and I haven't done a thing.
Yeah, this is happening to both me and my wife. This morning we walked briskly for 50 minutes and she got 18 minutes while I got 20. I got an additional minute walking to my car.
 

newellj

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Original poster
Oct 15, 2014
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East of Eden
Thanks all. AFAIK, nothing has changed. Same watch, same OS versions, same settings, same workouts, same user. ;) I work out a lot and have a very low heartbeat, resting and active. Oddly, while my exercise minutes for actual workouts has basically ended, it still gives me exercise minutes for walking, when I'm sure my heart rate is lower than when exercising.

I find Apple explaining this by pointing to an undocumented and apparently undocumentable silent update very frustrating, to say the least. Happily it hasn't affected my blood pressure (yet). ;) :D
 

jbachandouris

macrumors 603
Aug 18, 2009
5,163
2,160
Upstate NY
Thanks all. AFAIK, nothing has changed. Same watch, same OS versions, same settings, same workouts, same user. ;) I work out a lot and have a very low heartbeat, resting and active. Oddly, while my exercise minutes for actual workouts has basically ended, it still gives me exercise minutes for walking, when I'm sure my heart rate is lower than when exercising.

I find Apple explaining this by pointing to an undocumented and apparently undocumentable silent update very frustrating, to say the least. Happily it hasn't affected my blood pressure (yet). ;) :D
It's trying to raise my blood pressure...
 

oeagleo

macrumors 6502a
Feb 5, 2016
696
407
West Jordan, Utah
One of my pet peeves about the AW, is that while it will count exercise minutes, it never says what constitutes and "exercise", other than "the equivalent of a brisk walk". The problem is that a "brisk walk" for a 70 year old, overweight man would be quite different from a 19 year old runner. What zone does the heart rate need to be in? What percentage of Max heart rate? Of Heart Rate Reserve? All a mystery, and apparently, only Tim Cook knows what the equivalent of a "brisk walk" is.
That's why when I' serious about getting the ring closed, I use my Garmin and import it into health, and consequently, into the activity app. It's a same for a company that is so self-directed at health and exercise doesn't take into account the different ages/status/weight, etc of it's users. No where in the apps that I can find is there a definition of Max HR, nor a calculation of zones, or Heart Rate Reserve.
 

newellj

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Original poster
Oct 15, 2014
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East of Eden
It's trying to raise my blood pressure...

I sympathize. My RHR is in the 40s. It periodically seems to think I've died. The Apple techs told me that if my HR isn't above 135 it won't register "exercise." First, that isn't true - until this week it routinely recorded exercise minutes with a HR way below that. But second, why the sudden change? It all sounds pretty first-worldy but the only thing I do with my AW is record activity and exercise. If it has stopped doing that I'll go back to mechanical watches and mail this one to Tim Cook.
 
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xraydoc

macrumors demi-god
Oct 9, 2005
7,744
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192.168.1.1
I have ALWAYS had problems with the exercise ring recording minutes. I would walk outside for an hour and barely get 30 minutes and I don't walk slow.
When I walk the inside of the mall and sometimes I'll be just about running and it STILL wouldn't give me credit. The walk from the car to the door will give me 1-2 minutes, but 40 minutes barely gets me more than 10 minutes if that.

I assume this is because I am a runner and my resting heart rate is normally low so it takes more to convince the watch I'm 'exercising.'

So, basically I HATE the exercise ring. I've had this problem with Series 2,3, and 4.

It hasn't gotten 'better' recently. 2 days this week it barely gave me any credit at all. Yet today, I went the Dr's and magically got 4 minutes and I haven't done a thing.
I have same problem. Go for a 40 minute walk with my wife -- she gets 40 minutes and I get like 18 min.

I think it will only count walking exercise if your HR goes above 100. My resting HR is in the low 50's and my normal pace walking is like 80. I have to walk at a very brisk pace (though I have short legs), nearly a light jog, for it to get over 100 and register as exercise.

If you can't get your HR up that high for a walk, try the "other" workout. It will ignore HR and just use time. Apple says it tracks this workout's calories "similar to a brisk walk."
 
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newellj

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Oct 15, 2014
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One of my pet peeves about the AW, is that while it will count exercise minutes, it never says what constitutes and "exercise", other than "the equivalent of a brisk walk". The problem is that a "brisk walk" for a 70 year old, overweight man would be quite different from a 19 year old runner. What zone does the heart rate need to be in? What percentage of Max heart rate? Of Heart Rate Reserve? All a mystery, and apparently, only Tim Cook knows what the equivalent of a "brisk walk" is.
That's why when I' serious about getting the ring closed, I use my Garmin and import it into health, and consequently, into the activity app. It's a same for a company that is so self-directed at health and exercise doesn't take into account the different ages/status/weight, etc of it's users. No where in the apps that I can find is there a definition of Max HR, nor a calculation of zones, or Heart Rate Reserve.

Secret algorithms??? Apparently so. Corroborating your point, though, I tried one of my workouts this morning wearing a Polar chest strap, and that *did* record exercise minutes. Makes no sense at all - why does the Activity app record exercise from the Polar strap but not record exercise from an exactly identical workout recorded as a Workout?
[doublepost=1563564413][/doublepost]
I have same problem. Go for a 40 minute walk with my wife -- she gets 40 minutes and I get like 18 min.

I think it will only count walking exercise if your HR goes above 100. My resting HR is in the low 50's and my normal pace walking is like 80. I have to walk at a very brisk pace (though I have short legs), nearly a light jog, for it to get over 100 and register as exercise.

If you can't get your HR up that high for a walk, try the "other" workout. It will ignore HR and just use time. Apple says it tracks this workout's calories "similar to a brisk walk."

FWIW, until Monday this week I was getting exercise minutes recorded with HRs in the 80s. Based on some experiments today, I now have to get it over 100 (as you said) for the AW to record exercise minutes....but with the Polar strap, I got exercise credit with HRs in the 80s.
 
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oeagleo

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Feb 5, 2016
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West Jordan, Utah
Secret algorithms??? Apparently so. Corroborating your point, though, I tried one of my workouts this morning wearing a Polar chest strap, and that *did* record exercise minutes. Makes no sense at all - why does the Activity app record exercise from the Polar strap but not record exercise from an exactly identical workout recorded as a Workout?
[doublepost=1563564413][/doublepost]

FWIW, until Monday this week I was getting exercise minutes recorded with HRs in the 80s. Based on some experiments today, I now have to get it over 100 (as you said) for the AW to record exercise minutes....but with the Polar strap, I got exercise credit with HRs in the 80s.

I believe, and have checked, and when you use any other device, (I'm assuming your Polar strap uploads to Polar Flow, and you export that to Health), and export it to Apple's Health program, it counts that activity as under the "OTHER" category, and that category does not monitor the heart rate to determine activity minutes, instead, it gives a 1:1 minute count for the activity. So, if you're lazy, or if you're 3 minutes short of your activity ring that day, just choose "OTHER" for your exercise type, and perhaps "Functional Training", (after all, shopping promotes body function, right), and you'll credit minute for minute in the Activity ring. :) (Not that I would ever do that, by the way).....
 
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newellj

macrumors 604
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Oct 15, 2014
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East of Eden
I believe, and have checked, and when you use any other device, (I'm assuming your Polar strap uploads to Polar Flow, and you export that to Health), and export it to Apple's Health program, it counts that activity as under the "OTHER" category, and that category does not monitor the heart rate to determine activity minutes, instead, it gives a 1:1 minute count for the activity. So, if you're lazy, or if you're 3 minutes short of your activity ring that day, just choose "OTHER" for your exercise type, and perhaps "Functional Training", (after all, shopping promotes body function, right), and you'll credit minute for minute in the Activity ring. :) (Not that I would ever do that, by the way).....

It was actually Polar Beat, not Flow...and I recorded it as "indoor cycling" on the Polar Beat app, but it showed up as "outdoor cycling" as a workout on the Workout tab of the Activity app. (Go figure?) The move and exercise tally in the Activity app shows up as gray and is labeled as "Polar Beat." And it appears to have double-counted the workout, which would really be misleading.
 

oeagleo

macrumors 6502a
Feb 5, 2016
696
407
West Jordan, Utah
It was actually Polar Beat, not Flow...and I recorded it as "indoor cycling" on the Polar Beat app, but it showed up as "outdoor cycling" as a workout on the Workout tab of the Activity app. (Go figure?) The move and exercise tally in the Activity app shows up as gray and is labeled as "Polar Beat." And it appears to have double-counted the workout, which would really be misleading.
[doublepost=1563574499][/doublepost]It actually only counts one activity, I have done this with my Fenix5+, and Health counts any external, or imported activity, and uses the “other” category. As for the accuracy of the name on the imported activity, I think that’s another of Tim Cook’s secrets. I use RunGap to import my Garmin activities, and that’s how it’s done.
 

newellj

macrumors 604
Original poster
Oct 15, 2014
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East of Eden
[doublepost=1563574499][/doublepost]It actually only counts one activity, I have done this with my Fenix5+, and Health counts any external, or imported activity, and uses the “other” category. As for the accuracy of the name on the imported activity, I think that’s another of Tim Cook’s secrets. I use RunGap to import my Garmin activities, and that’s how it’s done.

Both Activity and Health double-counted my 6:30-8:00 workout. It's harder to see in Health. You have to touch Health>Workouts>Show All Data, but it shows overlapping workouts from two different sources (in this case, Apple Watch and Polar Beat). It's easier to see the overlap in Activity because they're shown separately but with identical times on the list of workouts.
 

jhfenton

macrumors 65816
Dec 11, 2012
1,100
649
Cincinnati, Ohio
I'm in the same camp with a RHR in the mid-40's, and I've never earned much in the way of Exercise minutes from just walking either. Except for explicit workouts running (mostly), cycling, or rowing, I usually get credit for 5 or fewer minutes of random exercise per day. I just walked for 30 minutes at a treadmill desk at work, and I got credit for 0 minutes of exercise, even though I recorded it as a treadmill walking session. And that's probably fair. The highest HR recorded was 74. That shouldn't qualify as exercise, even if it gets me out of my chair and burns a few calories.

I do have 4 random minutes (2 x 2) of exercise recorded earlier this morning. Based on timing, I'd guess they came from climbing several flights of stairs twice, even though the Watch never recorded a HR higher than 79. I don't know how the Watch decides when to credit exercise minutes, but it seems to be a combination of movement and HR. (I have an aluminum Series 4.)

Edited to add: I guess I really haven't been paying much attention to my Watch crediting random minutes of exercise. Based on today's results, I may be picking up more than I realized. (I don't pay much attention to the Exercise ring. I keep my Move goal at 1,000 calories, and I need quite a bit more than 30 minutes of exercise to come close to that.) At about 5:45 PM this evening, just before I started running, I had 13 minutes of random exercise credited, even though my highest HR reading of the day was still 79. About 16:40 into my run, the Watch chimed and showed that I had closed my Exercise ring. (So it was crediting exercise minute for minute from the start of the run.) I ran for 1:05:39 in total, let's call it 66 minutes, added to the 13 is 79. Sitting here at home, my Watch shows 80 minutes for the day, so I picked up another minute somewhere.

It is a bit odd that I picked up 13 minutes of random exercise credit throughout the day, but none of it was during 30 minutes that I walked on the treadmill with my HR in the 70's (the highest HR recorded all day until my run this evening).

I'm currently running WatchOS 6 DB 4.
 
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rnj79

macrumors regular
Sep 24, 2014
153
120
West Baton Rouge Parish, La
Mine and my husband's AW3 both started doing the same after the latest update. I train in BJJ 3 times a week for 1.5 hours each class, but not much has been counted on the watch. It's only the Exercise though. Moving and Standing are still logging properly.
 

a.jfred

macrumors 6502
May 28, 2010
393
26
Austin, TX
I have same problem. Go for a 40 minute walk with my wife -- she gets 40 minutes and I get like 18 min.

I think it will only count walking exercise if your HR goes above 100. My resting HR is in the low 50's and my normal pace walking is like 80. I have to walk at a very brisk pace (though I have short legs), nearly a light jog, for it to get over 100 and register as exercise.

If you can't get your HR up that high for a walk, try the "other" workout. It will ignore HR and just use time. Apple says it tracks this workout's calories "similar to a brisk walk."
Yeah, I don't think it's a HR thing. I'm frequently over 100 for my walks, and I'm having the same issue: I'm losing 10-20 min in exercise time every day now, for the same walk I've done for 2.5 years. That's ridiculous, and dangerous (I know it's October, but it's still near 100*F where I live). And yeah, short legs but I do NOT walk slow.

I've never had a problem closing that ring before I sit down at my desk at work (45 minute walk), and now I'm lucky if I hit 30 min.

Glad I'm not the only one who's having this issue, but it sounds like there isn't a fix for this (yet).
 

Mercenary

macrumors 65816
Sep 17, 2012
1,189
588
Chances are the updates have wiped out your fitness calibration data. Certainly has if you unpaired and setup as new. You need to re calibrate. Which is nice and easy.

 

a.jfred

macrumors 6502
May 28, 2010
393
26
Austin, TX
Chances are the updates have wiped out your fitness calibration data. Certainly has if you unpaired and setup as new. You need to re calibrate. Which is nice and easy.

Did that. That was the first thing I did. I'm still losing 10-20 exercise minutes per workout.
 

Duncan68

macrumors 6502
Sep 22, 2018
398
292
Did that. That was the first thing I did. I'm still losing 10-20 exercise minutes per workout.

If I do a 30 minute outdoor walk, my watch only counts about 22 minutes of that as "exercise". Is that what you're seeing? I think your heart rate has to get up to a certain level for it to count.
 

jhfenton

macrumors 65816
Dec 11, 2012
1,100
649
Cincinnati, Ohio
If I do a 30 minute outdoor walk, my watch only counts about 22 minutes of that as "exercise". Is that what you're seeing? I think your heart rate has to get up to a certain level for it to count.
That's the only thing that makes sense--and it's consistent with my treadmill desk experiment reported above--but it's still odd. As I said above, I experience the flip side of getting exercise credit for not exercising. So far, I have 7 minutes of exercise credit for the day. It looks like most of it came this morning walking up from my riverfront parking garage to my office. And then I received a couple of minutes walking to lunch. But my HR range for the day, looking at the Health app, is 47-80. Why would I get exercise credit walking up two flights of steps and two blocks up a slight hill if my HR never cracks 80?

IMG_0492.PNG IMG_0493.PNG
 

Duncan68

macrumors 6502
Sep 22, 2018
398
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That's the only thing that makes sense--and it's consistent with my treadmill desk experiment reported above--but it's still odd. As I said above, I experience the flip side of getting exercise credit for not exercising. So far, I have 7 minutes of exercise credit for the day. It looks like most of it came this morning walking up from my riverfront parking garage to my office. And then I received a couple of minutes walking to lunch. But my HR range for the day, looking at the Health app, is 47-80. Why would I get exercise credit walking up two flights of steps and two blocks up a slight hill if my HR never cracks 80?

View attachment 871467 View attachment 871466

Then I don't understand what they're doing. It would be nice if you do an outdoor walk that is 30 minutes long, that it gets completely counted.
 
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jhfenton

macrumors 65816
Dec 11, 2012
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Cincinnati, Ohio
Then I don't understand what they're doing. It would be nice if you do an outdoor walk that is 30 minutes long, that it gets completely counted.
I agree that an explicitly-recorded "workout" should be counted as exercise. If you're "cheating," you're only cheating yourself.

I'll try an experiment with an outside walk to see what the result is. My treadmill desk experiment showed zero credit for a slow indoor walk, but I don't usually record walks as exercise. (The treadmill desk can't go faster than 2.0 MPH.)
 

Duncan68

macrumors 6502
Sep 22, 2018
398
292
I agree that an explicitly-recorded "workout" should be counted as exercise. If you're "cheating," you're only cheating yourself.

I'll try an experiment with an outside walk to see what the result is. My treadmill desk experiment showed zero credit for a slow indoor walk, but I don't usually record walks as exercise. (The treadmill desk can't go faster than 2.0 MPH.)

There's some discussion about this on Reddit.

https://www.reddit.com/r/AppleWatch/comments/dkzppd
 
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