Health and fitness plan with Apple Watch and health data

Apple initially positioned the Apple Watch as on three things: productivity, communication and fitness. While the device can actually help in all three areas, it quickly became apparent that its primary appeal was helping people achieve health and fitness goals.

A few years ago, my colleague Zac Hall told an inspiring story about using Apple Watch data to successfully lose weight and now I’ve decided to follow his lead. I have several health and fitness goals that I want to achieve and I hope my Health app data will help keep me on track …

What is measured is managed

It’s truly amazing how much health and fitness data the Apple Watch (and the iPhone) put at our fingertips. In my case, I also have Quardio smart scales, which provide an additional set of data points.

My main approach is the old saying that “What is measured is managed”. Of course, to be effective, data needs to be front and center, which means looking at the data on a daily basis.

The Health app can display graphs for an entire group of data, but each is separate and I wanted all relevant data to be visible at a glance. Unless someone can show me what I’m missing, there doesn’t seem to be a way to tell the Health app to export your favorite data categories, and I was in danger of being kicked out of the Nerd Club if I was reduced to manually transcribing them.

What I decided is that I didn’t really need a bunch of numbers anyway. What I really needed was to use numbers to generate a nice color-coded dashboard. Since I couldn’t fully automate the process, I decided to keep it simple.

First, I split the data into input and output. The inputs were the things I had direct control over (like how many calories I consume and how many I burn). The outputs were the final results. The metrics I have chosen to monitor are:


  • Calories inside
  • Calories out
  • Minutes of exercise
  • Steps

Go out

  • Weight
  • Waist measurement
  • Percentage of body fat
  • BMI
  • Heartbeat at rest

My health and fitness dashboard

I created a spreadsheet, but instead of entering the actual numbers, which would be tedious and difficult to parse, I decided to use the fill function to color-code each cell. For the releases, I used official government data to define the ranges, from poor (red) to very good (green).

For inputs, I’ve set my thresholds, so green means I’ve reached my goal, yellow means I’ve come close, and red means less.

So I end up with a real at-a-glance indicator of how well I am doing in terms of both my behavior and my goal. My first day looks like this:

This shows that I have achieved all my behavioral goals; that my weight, waist size and body fat percentage have put me on the wrong foot; my BMI makes me overweight but not obese; and my resting heart rate is in the “good” range. My goal is to make all output cells green.

Every morning I’ll search for yesterday’s data in the Health app (plus my calorie burn record) and the dashboard update should take less than 30 seconds.

The role of my Apple Watch

My Apple Watch obviously collects a lot of data: calories, exercise minutes, steps, and resting heart rate.

I set the Activity as one of my complications, of course, but I set the Activity as the second quadrant, so I can cycle through it periodically throughout the day. I also have Cyclemeter and Workout as complications on that face to access immediately.

My iPhone also noticed that it seemed to have an unusual interest in my fitness metrics, so Siri’s suggestion stack surfaced in the Activity tab.

Health and fitness goals

As stated, my goal is to make all output cells green. Some people swear by specific goals with deadlines, for example I will lose X pounds by date Y.

I can see the appeal of that, and I have at least a general expectation about it, but it makes more sense to me to focus on the things I can control – the inputs – and let the outputs take care of themselves.

However, I have set 100 days as my initial milestone – which is February 5th – and will report on progress since then, if not sooner.

Your advices

If you’ve used Apple’s health data to help you reach your health and fitness goals, share all the tips in the comments!

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