Can the Apple Watch Improve Your Health?

Can the Apple Watch Improve Your Health?

11:54 08 June in News
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Last Friday, I took the plunge bought myself an Apple Watch. It’s not the first activity tracking device, nor even the first smart watch, but once again Apple has successfully added to its “ecosystem” of hardware and software. The Apple watch sold me not with the Apple branding (yes, I am a fan) or its design (I don’t think it looks fashionable), but instead on its health applications. Plenty of in-depth reviews are floating around the internet, but here I’ll share some thoughts from the perspective of a health practitioner and an exercise junkie.

 

Workout is the main app that tracks walking, running, cycling, elliptical, and rowing sessions: it provides the usual measurements of time elapsed, distance covered, calories burned, and heart rate.

 

The activity app provides a visual reminder in three coloured rings. The red ring represents calories burned; when you reach a pre-set goal, the ring is completed. The green exercise ring shows how many minutes of exercise, and the blue ring represents “standing up”. It provides a quick way to see how you are doing, and notifies you throughout the day on your progress. It also provides a social aspect and a “gamification” of your health. If this can motivate people to be more active, then I’m all for it.

 

Outside of Apple’s walled garden, there is support for many other common health related apps. I’ve been a user of Strava for cycling and Nike Run for running, so I was happy to see that they came with Apple Watch support. This allows the watch to display data from apps that are running on the phone.

 

My first real-world test of the watch was on Sunday at the CMCC, a 5km run that I competed in alongside my colleagues Dr. Berenstein and Dr. Vani. Using Nike Run and Workout, the watch gave me my heart-rate data, which was nice to see. Otherwise, it wasn’t much different from running with my phone. I would like the Apple Watch to provide more data, such as VO2 Max, blood pressure, and other indicators: this would be helpful both during the run and after, to analyze.

 

The Apple Watch functions much like a second screen for your phone. It allows you to get the essential data from those apps without needing to pull out your phone. Until we see better apps from developers, the watch doesn’t currently provide any benefit over the other activity trackers on the market. I expect the apps to be better in the next few months of development, though, and perhaps Apple will provide access to the oximeter found inside the watch*. If Apple wants to focus on the health capabilities, there is a great opportunity to do so.

 

Apple will sell millions of this watch, and continue to provide incremental improvements in both hardware and software. It’s early, but the potential for health benefits are promising for the future of these wearable devices.

 

Health Apps for the Apple Watch

Running

  • Nike Run
  • Run Keeper

Cycling

Strava

Activity

Human

* A site on the internet found the heart rate sensor also has an oxygen sensor built in. One theory is that Apple does not want to cross the line between consumer product and health/medical product and deal with the medical regulatory process. 

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