Have You Seen Your Health App Lately?

I’ve been fascinated with the iPhone’s Health app lately, and reviewing the changes in my behavior and health data since the pandemic began (and before).

Introducing the Health App

If you’re not familiar with the Health app (pre-installed all iPhones and Apple Watches), it’s designed to be your central repository for health-related data. It gathers information from your iPhone, Apple Watch, and/or third-party apps and consolidates it, so it’s easy to look at health-related over time.

This summary page features a quick overview of my favorite stats.

Since I’ve worn an Apple Watch exclusively for many years, the Health app contains data from its three Activity Rings—Stand, Move, and Exercise—from 2016 through today. As I suspected, I was much more active and hit my goals more often before the pandemic. (D’oh!) That being said, it also convinced me to work harder to hit my goals each day from now on.

Time for a Walk

Another thing I was shocked by was how much time I spent walking. In 2016 and 2017 I walked about 44 minutes a day. In 2018 I got serious about it and averaged almost 75 minutes a day. Since then, it’s plummeted to 56 minutes in 2019, 46 minutes in 2020, and  33 minutes so far in 2021.

I knew I hadn’t been walking enough lately, but seeing it in black and white made me recommit to walking 10,000 steps every day whether I feel like it or not.

The Fabulous Free Pedometer++ App

I’m not sure how much or how accurate my step data would be if I hadn’t been using the free Pedometer++ app since time immemorial. If you’re a step-counter, you should install this fabulous free app on your iPhone and your Apple Watch (if you’ve got one).

I display my step count on the Activity Digital watch face as a complication, so I have a constant reminder of how close (or far) I am from my daily goal of 10,000 steps.

My Activity Digital watch face with the step count complication at the bottom.

Pedometer++ is free, but please consider “tipping” the developer $0.99 or more (via in-app purchase) if you like it as much as I do.

Sweet Dreams are Made of This…

Another thing I was fascinated by in the Health app was how much (or little) I sleep. I began tracking sleep with the free Sleep Cycle app in 2017, and until 2019 I averaged 6 ¾ hours of sleep per night before skyrocketing to more than 9 hours a night in 2020 and 2021. Coincidence or pandemic? You be the judge.

Another thing I like are the Highlights sections, which I recently discovered use machine learning to show you things that matter most in each category. For example, in the Exercise category, I earned 9 fewer minutes a day so far this year than in 2020. On the brighter side, I earned 50% more minutes (34 a day) this week than last (17 a day).

There is one more thing: Much of my data requires (or is improved by) an Apple Watch.

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W. Abdullah Brooks, MD

Bob:   These are great points.    The AW exchanges hunches and speculation with clarity and hard data. In my case, over this past year, I continued my workouts, as per routine, even extending them courtesy of not having to commute and drop off the Mrs at her workplace en route to my own. However, I knew that I was probably not walking as much, and my AW confirmed it – with embarrassing specificity. It’s amazing how much unconscious walking we do at the work place, but it adds up; even going for those coffee and afternoon tea breaks. It’s… Read more »

W. Abdullah Brooks, MD

Bob:   One more wellness point that I neglected to add; the post-COVID-19 peak in your sleep you noted is not only quite normal, but necessary.    The change in routine and habit imposed by the pandemic was, as are all changes, stressful. That stress requires a compensatory response in order to be successfully tolerated. Amongst those adaptive responses is sleep, enabling recovery and thereby extending a healthy lifespan.    Where this response can go awry is when the individual resists it; and either pushes through until they decompensate, typically succumbing to one another illness, or gyrate through a turbulent… Read more »