Thanks to countless smartwatch deals this holiday season, many people receive their first. But what can they do exactly? Regarding fitness, quite a lot. With a growing list of sensors and software updates, these small devices can be exactly what you need to ultimately achieve your fitness goals.
Although some functions are specific to certain smart watches, we will focus on those on all watches. Today, many fitness bands and smartwatches have the same functions. Plus, that means that instead of harps on which watch is better, we can just show you why you would actually want to wear the watch.
. Know your resting heart rate
To improve your workout efficiently, you need to check your heart rate. Your heart rate acts as a guide to your overall health because it indicates how hard it must work to deliver oxygen, nutrients, and other materials into the body. This starts with your heart rate at rest.
Your resting heart rate is the number of times your heart rate beats per minute while resting. For a healthy adult, this varies between 50 and 70 strokes. As you improve your health, this number will decrease.
In addition to showing how healthy you are, a watch keeping an eye on your resting heart rate can also indicate whether something is wrong. For example, if your heart falls outside the normal range at some point, some smartwatches will alert you. With this information you can share it with your doctor for further testing, possibly learning a problem before you have symptoms.
2. Keep track of your heart rate continuously
In addition to knowing your heart rate at a certain point, you can also keep track of changes during physical activities such as workouts. Most smartwatches present this information in graph form to make it easier to check.
It is good to know how high your heart rate is during exercises. Although an increase is normal, there is a limit. The number depends on your age, but around around 160 bpm is what you should know. With smartwatches you can not only see peaks, but many will warn you when your heart rate is too high (or even too low, for that matter). The Apple Watch can even tell you if you have an irregular heartbeat, which can be a sign of a heart attack that can occur at any time.
During training, most doctors and trainers tell you to aim for a target heart rate of approximately 55-85% of your maximum heart rate. If you maintain this level of intensity, your cardiovascular health will improve and your body will not be overloaded. If you do not reach this level, it means that you are probably not training hard enough.
3. Stay motivated with music
With some smartwatches and fitness trackers, you can synchronize music, podcasts, and audiobooks with the device so that you don't need your smartphone to listen nearby. This can be useful during running and in the gym, because you have to carry and remove much less things that a smartphone entails.
Even if the watch does not let you play media without a smartphone, still take advantage of the ability to change tracks, pause or change the volume level directly from your wrist.
4. Maximize your recovery
Recovery is just as important as your training, which is mainly achieved when you sleep. However, not all sleep is created equal. As you rest, your body goes through phases, each of which helps with the recovery of the previous day.
The most important thing about sleep is the stage known as rapid eye movement, or REM. Here's where recovers your mind from the previous 16 (or more) hours that were active the day before. This phase is the shortest period of sleep, but is one of the most important, because a slow mind will not be able to bring a body to its full potential.
Then there are the other sleep phases in which your muscles recover. Without spending the necessary hours in these phases every night, you remain sore, unable to involve those muscles in the exercises the next day.
But as you know, going to bed alone is not enough. With so many smart devices around us, streaming services to choose from, games to play, many of us don't get a good night's sleep. You can change that with smartwatches.
Smartwatches let you keep track of how long you spend in each sleep phase. With this information you can change your bedtime routine to maximize recovery, such as going to bed earlier or adjusting room temperature. And for even more help, some smartwatches have an SPO2 sensor, a device that can measure blood oxygen levels to determine if you have sleep apnea.
5. Set reminders to stay active all day
Improving your health must go on all day long. With many tasks where we stand still for more than 8 hours every day, it is easy to be inactive for most of the day. With Smartwatches you can set reminders to encourage you to keep moving throughout the day. For example, the Fitbit Versa 2 vibrates every 50 minutes of every hour if you have not taken enough steps.
You can also set a wide range of fitness goals that can be tracked using the smartwatch. You can integrate other smart devices into the fitness service of your watch and follow all your health-related statistics directly on your wrist, such as your weight, how long you have been standing and the calorie intake. Just like reminders, the watch will alert you when you have a goal for the day and you have not yet achieved it, so you will not lose sight of it.
7. Becoming competitive with daily challenges
In the world of fitness, competition is a major motivator. With some smartwatches you can compete with your family and friends to help both you and your loved ones work harder. You can set challenges for one day, the working week or the weekend. These challenges can include the number of steps or other activities. At the end of the competition, the participants are ranked and the winner earns a prize. The price is usually random, but it is often the fire that someone needs to really push themselves towards their fitness goals.
Due to the high demand for oxygen, swimming provides great aerobic activity. And because of the limited stress, it works as an anaerobic exercise, which means it can also build muscle strength. It has little impact, so even those with earlier injuries can still perform the exercise. However, unlike other forms of cardio, it is difficult to follow.
With water-resistant smartwatches such as those from Fitbit, you can follow your progress in the swimming pool. The watch perfectly monitors how fast you swam, how far and your intensity level.
9. Make better walkways
Many smartwatches now come with a GPS sensor to track your movements. Your location data is used to create a map of your running, walks, and other outdoor activities that you can view later. With this information you can plan walking and walking courses for future runs. It also keeps you safer while jogging in the late night or early morning because your location is being monitored at all times.
It is almost impossible to accurately follow your cardio spending during a workout. But with smartwatches you can follow this information and use it to determine your intensity during fitness activities.
Smartwatches can measure your total calories, beats per minute, distance traveled, number of steps and more. By comparing this information with previous days, you can see if you were a bit slack during your training. Did you travel further yesterday or burned more calories? Then push yourself hard in the future and try to match the better day and avoid less intense days. This information can also be shared with your doctor or trainer to create a personalized plan that is tailored to what you can do.
In some newer watches, some activities can be automatically detected, so you have to remember the step to follow the activity before the exercise. After performing the exercise for a few minutes, the watch asks you if you want to follow this activity. Select "Yes" and your watch will follow. Some watches even add the data from the few minutes before it was requested, giving you an accurate view of your entire workout.
If you want to burn more calories, using stairs can make the difference. By moving on both the x and y axes, you can burn calories as if you were moving twice as fast on a flat surface. Moreover, training should not be limited to just one session before or after work. Instead, you need to exercise throughout the day, keep your body warm, improve your health and reduce the risk of injury.
Smartwatches can climb stairs thanks to their height meters. Because kicks burn more calories than regular steps, just the number you want to beat can motivate you to burn more calories.
Using the accelerometer, a smartwatch can also detect changes in arm position and the swing of your arms as you move to determine whether you sit or stand up. Because standing burns more calories than sitting (in addition to other health benefits), you can set a goal to stand x minutes per hour and be notified when you have or have not reached this goal.
With smartwatches such as Apple Watch Series 4 and higher, you have protection against falls while you are running. With the fall detection function, your smartwatch detects when spillage is hard. It will buzz your pulse, sound an alarm and display a message with the option to call emergency services. If you are fine, you can select "I am OK" to ignore the warning.
However, if you are immobile for one minute, paramedics are automatically called up and informed of your location with the GPS sensor. It also sends a message to your emergency contacts, which you can add to your medical ID . Although you can disable this feature, Apple will automatically enable this feature if you set your age to 65 or older.
13. Get access to exclusive fitness apps
One fact that is often overlooked is that smartwatches use their own mobile operating system, regardless of the system that you find on your smartphone. These operating systems have their own app stores, apps that are explicitly designed for this form factor. These include fitness apps with interfaces made for the smaller watch screen.
Whether you use a smartwatch with watchOS (Apple Watch), wearOS (Android-based smartwatches) or one of the operating systems of other OEMs, you will find that fitness apps designed for the watch factor to enhance your training to help improve. There are meditation apps to help you refocus, apps to show you what to do in the gym, apps to keep you motivated and much more.
Finding the one that fits your fitness goals is a bit of exploring, but it will dramatically improve your training. Just like your smartphone, while standard apps and sensors provide excellent help with a variety of things (including training), it is with third-party apps that you really get the most personalized experience.
This article was produced during Gadget Hacks annual Health & Fitness special coverage. Read all Health & Fitness series.