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How Does Apple Watch Calculate Active Calories?

How Does Apple Watch Calculate Active Calories?

Apple Watch is one of the best smartwatches on the market, and with its range of health and fitness apps, you can easily and conveniently keep track of your level of activity to achieve your weight loss goals. One of the measurements offered by the Apple Watch Activity app is something called “Active Calories”. Like other workout data, Active Calories are presented in Apple’s Health app so you can save or share it with your activity buddies. Many users assume that this means that all their Active Calories are aggregated– regardless of the app used to log them, but this is not true. In other words, any calories added from third-party apps are not included in the totals indicated in the Health app. But how does Apple Watch calculate active calories?

Price when reviewed: $399


How Does Apple Watch Calculate Active Calories?

How Does Apple Watch Calculate Active Calories?Apple’s Health app obtains calorie data from a wide range of sources, including iPhone’s built-in M8 motion coprocessor, your Apple Watch, and third party apps through HealthKit.

Your Apple Watch calculates your total calorie burn, which includes the BMR/RMR calories that you have burned anyway. The Workout app reports active calories, which don’t include BMR calories, while the Activity app shows you both active and resting calorie burned – total calories. You need to calibrate these devices with your age and weight to get accurate estimates of calories burned.

What are the active calories implied by Apple?

Apple does not provide a description of its ‘Active Calories’ in the manual for their Apple Watch, but many users argue that it counts towards its ‘Move’ goal. Yet, it does not take into consideration calories burned from weight workouts, yoga, Pilates, or 7-minute workouts. Here’s why:

The human body uses up calories from three muscle groups: cardiac, smooth, and skeletal muscles. For example when you are in a coma, the body only uses up the first two muscle types. The Apple Watch, on the other hand, estimates Active Calories based on the skeletal muscle.

It uses a physiological model that considers average human statistics, as well as any personal data you input in Apple’s Health App, including sex, weight, height, and heart rate, and then makes use of the accelerometer to identify your specific activity level to feed the model.

Why Apple’s Active Calories are less than those from other apps

The Apple Watch does not have sensors to detect the weights you’re lifting, so it cannot possibly measure Active Calories from weight-related activities like workout.

In fact, the watch algorithms may be interfered with because it is noticing very slow wrist movement with a high heart rate that is beyond what it may expect with that level of motion. As such, Apple’s active calories will be more accurate for people who walk, run, and move without weights attached to their bodies.

Taking this reasoning into account, yoga, Pilates, and 7-minute workouts that don’t involve weights will provide more accurate results in Active Calories than for weightlifting or reformer Pilates.

Managing data sources

As mentioned before, the Health app obtains calorie data from multiple sources, but it cannot simply add them all up to avoid duplicates. For instance:

  • The Apple Watch continually monitors calories burned through movement
  • Third party apps like Reps & Sets measure calories burned from multiple activities

If you log a workout using the third party app while wearing your smartwatch, you will be measuring the same activity twice. If the Health app, in turn, adds all the data, the figures obtained would be misleading.

Fortunately, you can change the way Apple Health prioritises its sources by tapping the Edit button in the “Share Data” menu option. So, if you feel that your Apple Watch is not giving you accurate data for Active Calories burned, you can use the setting to give third-party apps a higher priority over smartwatch.

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