How I use my Apple Watch to stay fit


I accidentally became a fan of health data tracking since it helped me feel so much better. I’ve lost weight, got rid of dizziness and constant headaches, and simply have more energy nowadays.

Disclaimer

This is not your typical promotional piece or an extensive review. It's a story about my personal journey with the Apple Watch 6, which I purchased three years ago on a whim, simply as a treat to myself. Truth be told, I didn't really need it. Prior to that, I briefly dabbled with a cheap knock-off Apple Watch manufactured in China. So, I must confess that I'm not the most qualified person to be recommending smartwatches.

However, what I really want to do is share how this little device has had a positive impact on my quest for a healthier lifestyle. With a demanding job, a lively toddler, and a menagerie of animals to care for (including a cat, two degus, a noisy red-breasted parakeet, and the occasional visiting dog), finding time for the gym is a challenge. That's where the Apple Watch comes in – it has become my trusted companion, helping me make the most of every little walk or jog that fits into my busy schedule.

Red-breasted parakeet named Tuzas
Felt the need to show what a beauty he is.

Data is king

The Apple Watch has been a game-changer for me, helping me shed 10 kilos (22 pounds) not once, but twice. The first time was shedding off the pregnancy weight, and the second time it was about saying goodbye to the lingering effects and habits of the pandemic.

Now, before I continue, let me emphasize something important. I firmly believe that every body is beautiful just as it is, as long as individuals feel good about themselves and maintain good health. Personally, I was never considered overweight, but I discovered that shedding a few kilos made me feel more vibrant and energetic.

Alright, I'll admit that there's a little more to my motivation. My colleague refers to it as the "heroin chic" culture here in Lithuania. Although it's not meant to be taken literally, "heroin chic" is a term used to describe a cultural trend where thin, waif-like models were idolized, often associated with drug addiction and an obsessive body image. While the term itself may be controversial, it reflects the prevailing trend of being slim and embracing a healthy lifestyle in this country. And I must confess, it has had its influence on me.

When I first started using my Apple Watch, it opened my eyes to my own unhealthy habits. I realized I was only dedicating a few minutes a day to exercise, not getting enough sleep, and spending far too much time sitting. It was a harsh reality check, much like stepping on a scale after a long time. But instead of ignoring it, I decided to confront the truth head-on and take action.

Now, the Apple Watch provides a wealth of data that you can tap into – from tracking calorie burn and water intake to monitoring heart rate and sleep duration. While not all of the features were useful for me, there were specific ones that truly revolutionized my routine and brought about significant changes.

Calories burned

I closely monitor two essential parameters when it comes to calories – resting energy and movement. The latter represents the calories actively burned through activities like walking, jogging, or even busying myself with chores. Resting energy, on the other hand, estimates the energy my body utilizes while in minimal activity mode.

Based on three years of diligent tracking, I've determined that my body passively consumes approximately 1,800 calories per day. Consequently, I've set my move goal to 800 active calories daily. By summing these two figures, I arrive at the total number of calories I can consume each day – a generous 2,600. Not too shabby, right?

Apple Watch calories

Now, whenever I want to shed a few pounds, I strive to consume fewer calories than I burn. I recall reading somewhere that a deficit of 7,000 calories translates to losing one kilogram. So, theoretically, by limiting my intake to 1,900 calories instead of the entitled 2,600, I could shed a whole kilogram in just 10 days.

However, I'm not a proponent of rapid weight loss, having learned my lesson during my insecure teenage years. It's neither healthy nor sustainable in the long run. Instead, I focus on adopting a healthier overall lifestyle rather than resorting to short-term fasting.

While resting energy naturally burns without much effort, reaching my move goal can sometimes be a bit challenging. Nevertheless, I'm currently on a streak, successfully hitting my goal daily for almost three months now.

Hitting that goal has become ingrained in my routine, and you can tailor your own goal to suit your individual needs. Personally, I do it because it allows me to worry less about food. Since I engage in frequent physical activity, I can indulge in a treat every now and then without feeling any guilt.

There are various apps available to track calorie intake by logging the foods you consume. I briefly experimented with this method but found it excessively draining. Instead, I opted for a balanced diet and diligent movement tracking. In six months, I managed to shed 10 kilograms (22 pounds) without ever going to bed hungry or succumbing to emotional overeating.

Attempting to reach that move goal can indeed be challenging on certain days. Just last Sunday, after enjoying a leisurely day of gardening and reading a captivating book (Roberto Bolano's 2666, if you're curious), I realized I wouldn't meet my goal by day's end. Grudgingly, I clenched my teeth and embarked on a 4-kilometer run. Initially reluctant, I was pleasantly surprised by how invigorated I felt afterward. Not because I hit my goal, but because the act of jogging revitalizes me far better than a cup of coffee ever could.

It’s different for women

A friendly competition has ignited in our household – a race to reach our move goals faster. To my dismay, I always found myself coming in second place. It baffled me how my partner, who commutes by car to work while I dedicate a solid 50 minutes walking back and forth, managed to reach their goal before me.

Curiosity piqued, we decided to compare our metrics. Every time we embarked on a walk, hike, or cycling adventure, we diligently compared the calories burned. Astonishingly, my partner consistently burned approximately 20% more calories than I did.

Intrigued, I kindly requested permission to delve into their health app. Lo and behold, it unveiled a surprising revelation – even during moments of rest, my partner burned an additional 500 calories compared to me. That's the caloric equivalent of an entire chocolate bar! Well, it appears that even with the progress of women's emancipation, true equality in this aspect remains elusive. The reasons behind these disparities are vast and complex, but exploring them in detail is beyond the scope of this article.

Support messages

One of the aspects I truly adore about my watch is the occasional support messages it sends my way. Messages like, "You can do it! Just a 15-minute brisk walk, and you'll reach your move goal." Well, that seems totally achievable. These messages serve as a gentle nudge, encouraging me to get moving. Even if it's just a little bit, I always feel so much better afterwards.

Apple Watch Support messages

Another invaluable feature, especially for individuals like me with sedentary professions, is the stand hours reminder. Every hour, my watch kindly sends me a reminder to stand up and move for at least a minute. I find this particularly helpful when I work from home, as it prevents me from melting into my armchair. Without that gentle reminder, I would probably remain seated until lunchtime or beyond.

The Apple Watch is also generous in providing various rewards – those little badges are such fantastic motivators. For instance, it celebrates your achievements when you try a new workout for the first time, exceed your move or exercise goal, or set personal records.

Additionally, the watch offers monthly challenges and limited edition badges to spice things up. One example is the International Women's Day challenge, where you receive a badge for working out for at least 20 minutes on March 8th.

Now, you might think that all of this sounds cheesy or perhaps even useless. But the truth is, we all thrive on support and encouragement when trying to accomplish something. Personally, I find these non-intrusive support messages incredibly valuable. They remind me that I've done something worthwhile for myself, and that feeling is truly priceless.

Once you've been using your watch for a while, it begins to generate reports that provide a valuable way to analyze your overall well-being and mood. Personally, I find these reports incredibly helpful in gaining a deeper understanding of myself. For instance, this year, I've noticed a remarkable increase in my energy levels and a decrease in morning irritability.

Curious to unravel the reasons behind these positive shifts, I turned to my Apple Watch for answers. Within the Trends section of my health app, a fascinating story unfolds. It reveals that my average sleep duration has extended by over an hour in recent months. I've also taken twice as many steps compared to the previous year, my exercise minutes have nearly tripled, and astonishingly, I've burned 30% more calories than just a couple of months ago.

Sleep with your watch on

Let me highlight a particular function that deserves recognition – sleep tracking. Whenever you seek solutions to various problems like low energy levels, weight gain, or illness, the ubiquitous advice always seems to revolve around stress avoidance. Frankly, even reading such advice can induce stress. It's not as if we purposefully choose to get our hearts racing.

Over time, I've learned to disregard this repetitive advice and instead prioritize sleep. Being well-rested makes a world of difference. When you lack sleep, you become irritable, struggle to concentrate, and may find yourself craving unhealthy food simply to compensate for the lack of energy.

Sleep is something within our control. Personally, I possess the superpower of being able to doze off almost anywhere, whether it's on a plane or during a theater performance. I can't fully comprehend the challenges faced by light sleepers. Sorry.

However, my sleep deprivation was a self-inflicted wound. Upon returning to work after having a baby, I felt that I had very little time for myself. So, after putting my child to bed, I would often sacrifice those precious hours of sleep to engage in activities that brought me joy. I would read, build Harry Potter-themed LEGO sets, play video games (currently engrossed in Red Redemption), and pursue numerous other interests.

While these activities were enjoyable, I noticed that I started resenting the rest of the day, and only those few solitary hours brought me true happiness. It was no way to live.

Determined to find a balance, I made a decision to prioritize getting to bed early every other day, allowing myself to still have those precious hours alone.

Remarkably, over the past six months, my average sleep duration stands at an impressive 8 hours and 26 minutes. However, over the last seven days, it has plummeted to a mere 5 hours and 42 minutes. It's no wonder I feel more fatigued. Yet, armed with this data, I have the knowledge to identify the source of the problem and, consequently, find a solution. Bolano will have to wait – I need to prioritize my beauty sleep.

Apple Watch sleep

Have a sip

Among the plethora of functions I haven't delved into, there are a few that I find particularly useful. Firstly, the handwash feature automatically sets a timer when you begin washing your hands, encouraging you to continue for at least 20 seconds. It's a small but impactful reminder of the importance of proper hygiene.

Another noteworthy function is the mindfulness app, which can send gentle reminders for a one-minute breathing session every hour or so. These brief moments of mindfulness help to ground and center oneself amidst the demands of the day.

The Apple Watch also offers medication reminders, the ability to measure blood oxygen levels, and heart rate monitoring, among other features. It's truly a comprehensive tool for tracking various aspects of our well-being.

However, I stumbled upon another factor that contributed to my occasional bouts of feeling unwell: inadequate water intake. Even when I believed I was drinking enough water, I experienced dizziness, discomfort in heat, and occasional headaches. My doctor suggested that insufficient hydration might be the culprit, but I was determined to prove her wrong.

To test her theory, I began diligently measuring my water intake, and to my surprise, she was indeed correct. I was consuming only about a liter of water per day when I actually needed a minimum of 2.5 liters. To assist me in tracking my hydration, I now have a special flask that calculates my intake. Alternatively, you can install an app on your Apple Watch to record your water intake and set reminders to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day.

Apple Watch water intake

Face the facts

I won't proclaim the Apple Watch as the ultimate solution, nor dismiss it as worthless. It might not be affordable for everyone and there could be alternative options that better suit your specific needs. What I do advocate for is embracing the power of data. Whether you choose to track your activities, sleep, and water intake through specialized gadgets or by simply jotting down notes, it's all about harnessing the information that can guide you towards a healthier and happier lifestyle.

You don't have to reside in a gym or dedicate every waking moment to wellness to experience the benefits. Every step you take, every sip of water you consume, and every minute you spend resting in bed contributes to your overall well-being.

Find what works for you.


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