Apple Watch Series 8: Gym

Posted on September 19, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Apple Watch with 31 Comments

I finally found the time to bring the Apple Watch Series 8 to the gym and see how it compares to Fitbit with my normal workout. Not that my normal workout is all that dramatic: I try to get in 10 to 15 minutes of a cardio warmup followed by 30 or so minutes of weight training, about 4 to 5 times per week.

I would have done this sooner, but the Apple Watch arrived on Friday afternoon, after I had been to the gym that day. I usually skip Saturday, and would have gone on Sunday, but my wife and I foolishly got three vaccines on Saturday (COVID-19 booster, shingles, and flu) and were down for the count for most of Sunday. So this had to wait until today (Monday). I usually go in the morning around 10 am and am gone for about one hour, including the drive each way.

Since I got the Apple Watch, I’ve been wearing my Fitbit Charge 5 on my right wrist, the idea being that I can compare the data that’s collected on each device. So I’ve worn both, faithfully, like an idiot, but I’ve not really compared the results. And when I went to the gym this morning, I forgot to even turn on workout tracking on the Fitbit (I remembered when I was about halfway through the weights). So I figured I’d have to compare this workout, inaccurately, to a similar previous workout I had recorded with Fitbit. More on that in a moment.

When I arrived at the gym this morning at 10:12 am, I had already gone for a walk and so I had achieved 325 of 800 move calories, 29 of 30 minutes of exercise, and 4 of 12 hours of standing.

I did about 15 minutes of cardio and then about 30 minutes of weight training, and I finished at 11:05. The Apple Watch and Fitness app then reported I was up to 728 of 800 move calories, 77 of 30 minutes of exercise, and 6 of 12 hours of standing. Looking at the exercises individually, I burned 187 calories on the elliptical and then 207 calories in “traditional weight training.” Oh, Apple.

While my eyes are still rolling, I do find it odd that the elliptical and weights are summarized in calories, but the outdoor walk is summarized in miles walked; I had to go into that exercise to discover that the walk accounted for 240 calories burned. So a bit over 600 calories overall between the walk and the gym.

This is a typical day for me (well, 4 or 5 days out of 7, I guess), with one variance: I switch between upper and lower body workouts each time I go to the gym. That shouldn’t impact the calories figure much if at all, I guess.

To compare these results to Fitbit, I chose a day last week that I did upper body, as I did today, with the idea being I’d have to do some math. But I discovered something interesting: though I had been manually starting and stopping my elliptical sessions on the Fitbit manually, it turns out that Fitbit is now smart enough to auto-record this exercise. So I actually have that data.

And that means that all I had to fake was the weight training calorie reporting, which should be the least variable of the three exercises. And that’s good because I really wanted to test a theory I had, that Apple was crediting me for fewer calories burned than was Fitbit (and, honestly, was probably being more accurate). But the results were … confusing.

Where Apple Watch had credited me with 187 calories for the elliptical, Fitbit credited me 237 calories. Apple Watch credited me 240 calories for the weights, and Fitbit would have credited me 223 calories (using the data from a previous workout). And because Fitbit automatically records my walks, I have three days’ worth of data there. And where Apple Watch credited me 285, 278, and 240 calories for each of those walks, Fitbit credited me 338, 365, and 301 calories. And so I’m pretty much seeing what I thought I’d see: Fitbit on the high side and Apple Watch on the low side. Well, except for the weights.

As I write this now at just past noon, I’ve closed my exercise ring (easily), and am close to closing the move ring (780/800). And while I’m only at 6/12 hours on the stand ring, there are many hours left in the day, so I should have no problem finally closing all three rings for the first time. But doing this daily will be difficult: on days that I go to the gym, it will be a no-brainer, but the two days I don’t go will be problematic. Maybe I need to try and walk more on those days.

I guess that’s where the motivation bit comes in. We’ll see if I can train my brain to want to make that happen.

More soon.

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