Why Apple Watch’s Activity App Doesn’t Credit You With All Exercise

by James A. Martin on May 6, 2015

in Apple Watch Fitness Tracking, Apple Watch vs. Fitbit

Tuesday morning, I took a five-mile walk with my spouse and a mutual friend. We walked for over two hours—but you’d never know it by my Apple Watch’s ‘Exercise’ ring.

Before we started, I launched the Exercise app on my Apple Watch and tapped to begin recording our walk. We stopped now and then, as we are wont to do, for Starbucks injections and ATM transactions. I paused the Exercise app each time, then restarted it once we resumed walking.

At the end of our promenade, I’d logged 4.93 miles over 2:16 minutes, with an average heart rate of 87 bpm. (This wasn’t a cardio workout; it was a walk-talk.)

Though all this data is visible in the Exercise app, the ‘Exercise’ ring in the Activity app credited me with only 28 minutes of exercise—two minutes short of completing the 30-minute goal. What gives?

Apple Watch Exercise ring Activity app

Apple Watch Exercise app

Turns out, there’s not one but three Apple Support forums on this topic: “BUG: Exercise app time not showing in Activity app,” “Workout not registered in Activity?,” and “Exercise ring isn’t updating.”

In these threads, early adopters like me complain that the Exercise app isn’t updating the Activity app about exercise sessions recorded, such as stationary bicycling. Some sample comments:

*  “Perhaps walking is not considered a strenuous enough exercise to qualify?”

* The ‘Exercise’ ring “only increases if you hit a percentage of your maximum (heart-rate) BPM.”

* “Exercise in the activity app is only credited with movement of the wrist, this means you invariably receive no credit for the treadmill or a static cycle machine.” (This hypothesis comes from a ‘Winston Churchill,’ so take it with a grain of salt/dose of brandy/puff of cigar.)

* “Indoor cycling doesn’t get included in the ring. Today I completed 50 mins of indoor cycling and the exercise still says zero. There also seems to be an issue with the calorie count which Apple is looking into. What I really can’t understand is how I can have active calories with the exercise ring still showing zero. And if you’ve logged a workout surely it should then overide the stand prompt. I was told on Saturday that because i was on my stationary bike for over an hour that’s why it didn’t register a stand that hour. It all seems wrong.”

And finally, this:

“According to the watch I get more exercise watering the plants than I do actually exercising.”

Should we start an #Exercisegate social media outcry? Probably not. Apple explains the Exercise ring situation (in its minimalist style) this way: “Any activity performed at the level of a brisk walk or above is considered exercise.”

OK, I get it. But like frequent-flier miles, I want credit for all my exercise, not just the brisk stuff. While Apple Watch does tally my steps, the number is buried within the app, not prominent as it is with Fitbit. Maybe Apple’s way will take some getting used to. But it’s another reason, along with Apple’s lack of a leaderboard, I’m keeping a Fitbit One in my pocket.

See also: “Fitbit vs. Apple Watch for Counting Steps: And The Winner Is…” and “How Accurate Is Apple Watch Heart-Rate Monitoring?”

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