In addition to the Apple Watch’s ability to track basic activities such as steps and training, more sophisticated features such as ECG, high / low heart rate warnings and fall detection offer a lot of value and have received general attention. But under the radar, the Apple Watch has several lesser-known key features that measure everything from current to future overall health, the likelihood of mortality, and your elemental metabolism. Let’s look at four hidden Apple Watch health features that you probably won’t use.
Four hidden Apple Watch health features
Tracking of VO2 max on Apple Watch is hidden for two reasons. First, even if you’re looking for the metric, it’s turned off by default and goes by another name on watchOS / iOS: Cardio Fitness.
Second, when enabled, VO2 max / Cardio Fitness measurements are only recorded with the Apple Watch during a brisk hike, walk, or outdoor run (specifically by selecting them in the Apple Watch training app).
Although you will get VO2 max readings less often as it is only measured for three training types, it is a very valuable feature to configure.
In addition to helping you understand your cardiorespiratory condition, research shows that VO2 max is a good indicator of overall health as well as predicting long-term health. See our full instructions on setting up and using VO2 max:
Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is automatically detected by the Apple Watch, but it cannot be seen in the portable device’s native Heart Rate app. To see it, go to iPhone’s Health app> Browse> Heart.
What is HRV? It is the measurement of how the time interval between heartbeats changes, measured in milliseconds – this is especially a metric that changes a lot, so it is important to look at broad trends, not daily numbers.
HRV is considered by many in the medical field as a strong indicator of not only the current general health and resilience of the heart and body, but also a strong predictor of future mortality.
HRV is also often used as a signal to understand when the body is ready for exercise or rest. All of this is thanks to HRV, which shows how responsive the heart is to our autonomic nervous system.
Heart rate recovery
Heart rate recovery is a bit less hidden than HRV as it automatically appears on the Apple Watch and iPhone after tracking a workout.
But what does that mean? Like HRV, heart rate recovery can indicate heart health by how well it listens to the autonomic nervous system.
Studies have shown that abnormally low heart rate recovery is a strong predictor that there is a 2 times greater risk of dying within six years.
Apple Watch shows prominent active calories burned, but what about passive calories, also known as your basal metabolic rate?
While the Apple Watch tracks this, it can not be seen on the laptop, you will have to go to the Health app on the iPhone and do some math.
It is valuable to understand your passive calorie burning / metabolism, as it can show you the effect of increasing muscle mass (more muscle = more passive calories burned). And of course, it’s also the key to understanding how much to eat if you want to be in calorie deficit or calorie surplus.
And if you want to go further in understanding your metabolism in real time, I recommend that you check out Lumen’s Metabolic Analyzer in Pocket Size (reviewed), which works with Apple Health.
Have you used some or all of these advanced Apple Watch features? Or excited to try them? Share your ideas and experiences in the comments below!
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