Apple Health is key in my Quantified Self workflows. I generate a lot of data about me and my health, which is all logged and stored safely in the Apple Health app on my iPhone 6s.
On a regular day I track 20+ different things in the Apple Health app. The most interesting ones being steps, walking + running distance, active energy, resting energy, sleep, dietary energy, body fat percentage, weight, BMI, and heart rate.
All these things are tracked through a small set of apps and devices, that each play an essential part in my workflow. Let’s take a look at these one by one.
The first device is my Apple Watch. I own a Apple Watch 1st generation, which I’m wearing day and night. During the day it automatically tracks my steps, walking distance, resting and active energy, heart rate and stuff like exercise minutes, stand hours and stairs climbed. The latter I’m not too concerned about, since especially exercise minutes seems to way to generous in deciding what counts as exercise. Riding my bike through the streets of Copenhagen, stopping at every traffic light, does not count as exercise in my book.
I used to wear a dedicated step tracker, and although it was a cheaper model, I believe it was pretty accurate. In a few tests it seems like my Apple Watch does a pretty good job at following the old step tracker, so I choose to believe that it is fairly accurate in regards to tracking steps.
During the night I use my Apple Watch to track the hours I sleep. I have played around with the iPhone’s Bedtime feature (which you can find it in the Clock app), but I tend to go to bed a different time every night, which the Bedtime feature doesn’t allow for. Therefore I chose to take a look at the App Store to find an alternative way to track my sleep. I stumbled upon an app called Sleep++ (created by David Smith) which essentially is an Apple Watch app that magically tracks your sleep quality by tracking your arm and wrist movement during the night. The only downside to this app is, that you have to activate it yourself. If you forget this, you’ll lose a night’s worth of data. I have made it a habit to always turn on the sleep tracking (from my dedicated sleeping Watch Face) when I lie down in bed, but I do occasionally forget it anyway.
The data from the app seems pretty reliable. It differentiates awake, restful and restless sleep, and it even tries to let you know when you had your best minutes (or hours of sleep during the night). Only the time in bed and time asleep is recorded into the Health app, but I find this sufficient. If I need a more detailed look at the nights I sleep, I can always open the iOS version of the app, that contains all the history.
Finally, I use my Apple Watch for tracking exercise. I use the built in Apple Watch Training app for the average day running and rowing in the local gym. The data isn’t as accurate as wearing a dedicated heart rate monitor, but I find it sufficient for those types of quick workouts. The convenience of having it automatically recorded in the Health app is golden.
I do own a dedicated GPS sports watch, namely the Garmin Forerunner 910XT and the accompanying heart rate strap. It is by no means a new model, but it gets the job done at my more serious outdoor exercise sessions (typically running or cycling). My workflow for logging data collected on the Garmin watch is a bit more involved. After logging the data I import it manually to my Mac (newer Garmin models can upload directly through your phone). Once it is inside the Garmin ecosystem, I export it to Endomondo, which I like to use for my more serious workouts anyway. Then, using a great iOS app called RunGap, I transfer the data from Endomondo into Apple Health with a single tap.
Moving on, the next device I use is the Smart Body Analyzer Scale from Withings. The scale connects to my home wifi and comes with an app for you iPhone. It lets me easily log my weight, body fat percentage, and BMI into the Health App every day. All I have to do is step on the scale in the morning.
Coming soon: Full review of the Withings Smart Body Analyser Scale.
As an added benefit it even measures the air quality in the room. I keep mine in my bedroom, and every morning when I step up on it, it’ll tell me what the CO2 levels were the last 24 hours (and hence if it is about time to open a window).
Finally, the last part of my workflow for logging data into the Apple Health app involves food logging. I use the iOS app Lifesum to log my food intake. It has a nicely sized database (at least when it comes to products sold in Denmark. I can’t say how many US and/or UK only products are stored in their database, but I believe it should have a pretty good coverage). You can scan the barcode on a given product and it will automatically find the right entry for you and suggest the amount to enter based on normal serving sizes of that specific type of food.
The most important thing about Lifesum is, that it automatically syncs your entries into the Health app logging both the bigger things like calorie intake, protein, fat, and carbohydrates, but also smaller things like fibers, sodium etc., which is nice to have, although I tend to focus very little on these.
Coming soon: Full review of Lifesum for iOS – the best app for logging your food intake fast and reliably.
So to sum up, using just my Apple Watch, iPhone, and the Withings Smart Body Analyzer Scale, I can log 20+ things in the Apple Watch Health app, which I can then analyze to gain knowledge about my health. More on how I go about doing that will follow – so stay tuned!