How the Apple Watch will be your personal trainer

Each of those features — individually or in combination — appeal to different people. For some, the ability to track activity and heart rate to measure walking, running, and stair climbing; to log rowing machines and exercise bikes; and to be not only reminded to stand up and move around, but rewarded for it: This will all be especially compelling. In that role, the Apple Watch can not only help quantify our lives; it can become a virtual personal trainer.

Activity monitoring

Our bodies feed on motion as much as they do food. Without motion, our muscles atrophy, we lose flexibility, and we develop chronic dysfunctions. In short, the less we do, the less we're able to do. It's a vicious cycle. That's what makes the Apple Watch's Activity app so valuable. The Watch offers three rings in its Activity app to show how your day is progressing.

The Stand ring shows how often you've gotten up. Our legs evolved to lift us — to literally defy gravity. Sitting down all day is like being in space. It deprives us of the resistance we need to keep us strong, to keep us standing now and into the future. The Apple Watch not only reminds you to stand — 10 minutes before the hour, every waking hour, for at least a minute that hour — but keeps track of how often you've done it. That helps build good habits, and good habits help build good health.

The Move ring takes us from standing to walking. It shows you how many active calories you've burned during the day. Start by setting a goal, and each week the Apple Watch suggests a new and improved goal. It's based on activity the Apple Watch has been tracking — your recent history — so the suggestions aren't just calculated; they're considered. You can tweak it manually, of course, but the idea is that each goal is progressive yet attainable. That's the best way to improve.

The Exercise ring shows how much brisk activity you've engaged in. Brisk can be a fast-paced walk, a jog, or a run. 30 minutes is the goal. You can do it all at once as part of a dedicated workout, or a little bit at a time. Here, the amount of time doesn't change on a daily or weekly basis, but over time it'll likely require greater intensity to hit the "brisk" point and sustain for the 30 minutes. Again, it's a smart way to build cardio.

The more you do, the more each ring gets filled.

Fill a ring completely and you've accomplished your goal for the day. There's a weekly summary on your Watch; visit the companion Activity app on the iPhone, and you'll find your complete history. Metrics create accountability, and that feeds back into motivation.

Working out

The Workout app provides real-time information on the cardio training you're doing, while you're doing it. Data includes elapsed time, distance, calories, pace, and speed. Better still, it's not just for jogging or running, but for outdoor equipment like cycling, indoor equipment like rowing and the elliptical, and more.

Many fitness bands and devices simply don't track activity performed on exercise equipment, which either forces you to change activities that are otherwise beneficial, or leads to an incomplete picture of what you're doing. By using the accelerometer, gyroscope, and heart rate monitor, the Apple Watch tracks and provides detailed summaries on a vast range of workouts — with or without equipment, inside or outside — without most of those blindspots.

Since the Apple Watch is also water resistant — rated IPX7 under IEC standard 60529 — so it should withstand sweat, rain, splashes, washing up, and if you want to follow in CEO Tim Cook's footsteps, even showering after a workout shouldn't be a problem. The Watch isn't built for swimming or diving, but all land-based activities are fine.

What's more, Workout will show you when you're halfway to a goal and when you've achieved it, as well as your last, best training session of each type. That's just the kind of right motivation, at the right time, that makes the difference.

Achievements unlocked

When you reach a new level of fitness, either breaking a personal record or attaining a personal milestone, the Apple Watch rewards you with an achievement badge. They're stored in the Activity app and are just a way for you to not only know how well you're progressing, but get some positive, visual affirmation. Success can be habit-forming, and rewards are a way to make success habitual.

Just doing it

All of the information gleaned by the Apple Watch and its built-in apps can also be fed into the Health app on the iPhone and shared, with permission, to other health and fitness apps and accessories. That removes silos and lets you get a really good picture of not only what you're doing but how you're doing.

Moreover, the Apple Watch app store will contain watch-optimized versions of some of the best and most popular fitness apps on the iPhone. That includes Nike + Running, which includes the Nike network and lets us cheer our friends on, Lifesum for food and water tracking so your nutrition can keep up with your exercise, Runtastic, and more.

The future of health and fitness

We've had fitness trackers for years. We've had smartwatches for a while. Apple Watch has higher ambitions: With an entire team devoted to it and the resources of Apple at its disposal, they aim to bring a computer to the wrist and harness it — and all the sensors that come with it — to help with things like health and fitness. It's not just something that just collects numbers and marks off miles, but it also understands context and can provide motivation.

As Apple starts getting feedback from millions of customers, and as wearable sensors improve, it's not impossible to imagine the Apple Watch could really become a personal trainer — with Siri yelling at you and everything!

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.