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Posts tagged with "fitness"

Fitness Totals Review: Effortlessly Surface Fitness Data and Track Your Progress

The Apple Watch and iPhone can collect a lot of fitness data. The trouble is, there’s so much information available that it can be a little overwhelming and difficult to sift through in Apple’s Health app. The situation has left an opening for third-party apps like Fitness Totals that use smart design and leverage new features like widgets to make sense of the piles of data and provide useful insights.

Fitness Totals benefits from its tight focus on applying a consistent approach to 16 fitness metrics using its app and companion widgets. The app compares fitness data over daily, weekly, monthly, and annual time periods, providing answers to questions like ‘Have I burned as many calories today as yesterday? and ‘Is my step count higher or lower this week than last?’ The data is available in the app, but its greatest strength is its widgets.

As much as I like Fitness Totals’ widgets, though, I want to start with the app. This is where you set up which metrics you want to track, and you can view even more data than is available in the widgets. Fitness Totals can track:

  • Steps
  • Walking and Running distance
  • Walking workouts
  • Running workouts
  • Hiking workouts
  • Cycling
  • Wheelchair distance
  • Wheelchair pushes
  • Swimming strokes
  • Swimming distance
  • Downhill snow sports
  • Resting calories burned
  • Active calories burned
  • Flights of stairs climbed
  • Exercising minutes
  • Standing minutes

The app’s main view displays a series of cards for each category you’ve chosen to track. Each card lists your total for the day and the current year compared to last year. Tapping a card opens a detailed view with more statistics. For example, my step details included today’s total and my daily average along with totals for this week, month, and year compared to last week, month, and year, and the averages for each. Finally, there’s an all-time number totaling all the data recorded and a button for sharing a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly summary with a colorful graphic.

Sharing your stats.

Sharing your stats.

The main view of the app also has a share button that lets you compose a graphic showing your yearly totals for any of the metrics you’re tracking. Currently, there’s also a banner at the top of the app prompting users to share their yearly totals, which does the same thing as the share button at the bottom of the screen.

The app’s three sizes of widgets are similar to the graphics its share functionality creates. The primary difference between each widget size is how much data it can display. The small widget displays one pair of statistics: today compared to yesterday or this week, month, or year compared to last week, month, or year. The medium widget adds a second set of data points, and the large one allows for three points of comparison.

Fitness Totals' widgets.

Fitness Totals’ widgets.

I’ve been using a medium widget to remind me of my step count for today, yesterday, and last week versus this week. The widget serves as a quick way to gauge how active I’ve been as the week progresses and is a nice addition to the health and fitness stack that I’ve created on a secondary Home Screen. I may add additional Fitness Totals widgets over time, but for now, the step count widget is doing a good job of reminding me to stay active.

The one thing I’d like to see added to Fitness Totals’ widgets is color and typeface customization options. The widgets are pure black, and some statistics are a dark purple that looks good but doesn’t offer much contrast against the black, which can make the numbers difficult to read. The black background can also be a bit stark against some wallpapers.

Even so, Fitness Totals fills a nice gap Apple has left wide open. Apple’s Health app has all the data Fitness Totals displays, but the company doesn’t offer a Health widget. Fitness Totals also benefits from its focus on just a handful of fitness metrics that can be turned on or off by users surfacing the data far better than the Health app. If you’re looking for a periodic Home Screen reminder to keep you on track with your fitness plans for 2021, Fitness Totals is an excellent choice.

Fitness Totals is available on the App Store for $2.99.


Fitness+ Review Roundup

Apple debuted Fitness+ yesterday alongside iOS and iPadOS 14.3. The service, which integrates tightly with the Apple Watch, offers workout classes on the iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV, and uses the Apple Watch to track your heart rate and other metrics. There are ten types of workouts available that are designed to accommodate beginners through experts. New workouts are recommended based on what you’ve done before and can be filtered by criteria like trainer, time, and music.

Apple invited a long list of press from health and fitness publications and a few from the tech world and other media outlets to try Fitness+ in advance of its launch. Here’s what some of them had to say:

Nicole Nguyen of The Wall Street Journal remarked on something that a lot of reviews highlighted:

What differentiates Apple’s app is its approach to workout newbies. There is a starter collection of videos designed for anyone who is “brand new to exercise,” as a sort of introductory course to each of the app’s disciplines. And even in the harder sessions, one of the trainers in the background offers a modified version for less-advanced practitioners.

Molly Ritterbeck appreciated the emphasis on beginners too in an in-depth review for Runners World:

This smart programming is not unique—there are competitor services that also do this well—but it is one feature that sets the service apart from the majority of apps out there in the oversaturated fitness category. There is a real risk of injury and getting in over your head for beginners, which can lead to decreased motivation or just quitting altogether, so this thoughtful approach is a highlight.

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The New Fitness App in iOS 14

Last year Apple introduced Activity Trends, a new feature for tracking your fitness over time. Trends complemented the Apple Watch’s classic Activity rings feature, and found its home alongside the rings in the iOS Activity app.

Activity rings are binary metrics: did you or did you not meet your goal for moving, exercising, or standing today? Trends, on the other hand, track your past year of activity through rolling 90-day windows, and inform you as to whether you’re improving or declining. If necessary, Trends then suggest improvements such as walking a little more than usual each day or standing for a bit longer each hour. Together, Activity Trends and the classic Activity rings seek to help you develop and maintain an overall healthy lifestyle across a handful of monitored metrics.

Last year, Trends got their own tab in the Activity app alongside the four tabs that had existed previously: History, Workouts, Awards, and Sharing. These tabs always felt a bit sparsely populated for my tastes, and it seems that Apple agreed. In iOS 14, Apple has redesigned the Activity app, consolidating its tab structure, and renamed the app ‘Fitness.’

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Streaks 4 Adds iPad Support, Timed Tasks, HealthKit Improvements, and Siri Shortcuts

There are a lot of habit trackers on iOS, but Streaks was one of the first and remains the gold standard against which I measure all other trackers. Even as Crunchy Bagel has added new features and customization options, Streaks’ simple, elegant design has remained at the center of its user experience. That’s important because habit tracking only works if it’s easy to log events. Even the slightest friction makes it too easy to abandon your efforts.

I’ve reviewed Streaks 2 and last summer’s major 3.0 update before, so I won’t cover that ground again here. Instead, I’ll focus on what’s new: an all-new iPad app, timed tasks, improved health tasks, and Siri shortcuts.

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Apple Celebrates US National Parks with Apple Pay Donation Program and Fitness Challenge

Apple is celebrating US National Parks by donating $1 for every purchase made in an Apple Store, on apple.com, and at its retail locations in the US from August 24th through 31st to the National Park Foundation.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO said:

“America’s national parks are treasures everyone should experience, and we’re proud to support them again this month by donating a dollar for every purchase made with Apple Pay at one of our stores,” said Apple’s CEO Tim Cook. “These awe-inspiring places are our national inheritance, and Apple is doing our part to pass them on to future generations — just as extraordinary, beautiful and wild as we found them.”

In addition to the its fundraising efforts, Apple has announced a fitness challenge for September 1st. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Redwood National Park, Apple Watch users who log a 50 minute workout that day will earn a special award in the Activity app and stickers that can be used in the Messages app. The App Store also plans to feature apps for discovering the US national park system.


Second Life: Rethinking Myself Through Exercise, Mindfulness, and Gratitude

“There’s something in your latest scan that we need to double check.”

Here’s what I’ve learned about cancer as a survivor: even once you’re past it, and despite doctors’ reassurances that you should go back to your normal life, it never truly leaves you. It clings to the back of your mind and sits there, quietly. If you’re lucky, it doesn’t consume you, but it makes you more aware of your existence. The thought of it is like a fresh scar – a constant reminder of what happened. And even a simple sentence spoken with purposeful vagueness such as “We need to double check something” can cause that dreadful background presence to put your life on hold again.

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A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Apple’s Fitness Lab

Men’s Health got a behind the scenes look at the fitness lab where Apple fine-tunes the Apple Watch algorithms that track your health and fitness. Like so many things Apple does, the numbers are staggering. According to Jay Blahnik, Apple’s director of fitness for health technologies:

‘Our lab has collected more data on activity and exercise than any other human performance study in history…. Over the past five years, we’ve logged 33,000 sessions with over 66,000 hours of data, involving more than 10,000 unique participants.’ A typical clinical trial enrolls fewer than a hundred participants.

Men’s Health also takes a look at the motivational messages coming to watchOS 4 and talked to Blahnik about the thinking behind the feature:

“We wanted to really make it easier for people to encourage each other, as well as smack-talk when the moment calls for it,” says Blahnik. “That’s why we have phrases like ‘Shazam’ and ‘You’re on fire.’ I share my activity with about 20 people, and whenever I see what someone else has done, it spurs me to train a little harder. It’s also a fun way to stay in touch.”

The refinements that Apple has made to watchOS 4 seem minor in print, but having tried the beta for about a month, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the impact they’ve had, especially with respect to the fitness features of the Watch. Now more than ever, it feels like Apple has figured out what the Watch does best and is putting all its wood behind those arrows.

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Pedometer++ Updated With Achievements and a Redesigned Widget

Pedometer++ 3.0 is here with new ways to motivate you to get moving and view your step counts. David Smith’s step counting app has been on the App Store since the introduction in 2013 of the iPhone’s M7 chip that collects motion data. Since then, Smith has continuously refined the app by enhancing visualizations of your step counts, adopting new technologies like the Apple Watch, and adding ways to motivate users like the delightful confetti that’s launched when you reach your step goal.

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