I’ve built up quite a collection of health and fitness apps over the last few years. MyFitnessPal (MFP) tracks my eating habits, Withings tracks my weight, my Apple Watch monitors my heart rate & my activities.
All that data! So many apps to view it all. Well, not really. Thanks to Apple Health and everything starting to talk to each other, all these disparate services can share their wealth of data with each other.
In summary, the heart of my system is Apple Health. I am sure if you are an Android user, then Google Health will probably do exactly the same job.
From there, MyFitnessPal logs my calorific intake and updates Apple Health every time I log anything. MyFitnessPal also updates my weight from Apple Health so it knows how far I am away from my goals, and can update my calorie predictions based on my actual weight.
Next up is the Apple Watch. I use this for Sleep Tracking (with the Pillow app), Activity Tracking (both via passive tracking aka the apple watch rings, and via the included Workouts app). The activity rings play a surprisingly massive role in my health and fitness.
They encourage you to do that little bit more, stand up that little bit longer, and take those extra few steps. You even get badges for completing streaks of days, weeks, and months, and it alerts all your friends with an Apple Watch every time you complete a ring! Everyone loves trophies, achievements and letting people know you are exercising, right? 😉
The Apple Watch also passively monitors your heart rate all the time you are wearing it. All these data points feed directly into the Apple Health app without any intervention, making it super easy to track just how much or little you do in a day.
The final piece of hardware I have is an old set of Withings wifi scales. (Withings was bought by Nokia, so these are now branded as Nokia…)
Jump on these in the morning (… after your morning ablutions..) and your weight will be updated in Apple Health. It will also be available to apps you’ve allowed to read this data like MyFitnessPal, and others. MFP will update its calorie predictions, as does the Activity tracking on the Apple Watch. If you stay standing on it long enough it will also do a heart rate reading and tell you the weather for the coming day.
The thing that really ties together all my data is a dashboard called Exist. It connects to pretty much everything I care about… (Withings, RescueTime, DarkSky, Last.Fm, Google Calendar, Apple Health) and displays my data with averages, trends, and predictions.
If you sign up for a trial of Exist with my link, you get an extra month for free (two months total!) so its worth checking out if you are at all interested in the data you generate every single day.
I can see at a glance I walk about less on Saturdays, but I complete more workouts on Friday & Saturday. Basically, I sit at home most Saturdays, but I go to the gym more often then too. I can see via RescueTime I am more productive on Wednesdays and that Tuesdays are a shocker for me.
The sleep tracking I do my via Apple Watch feeds in, and shows me last night I slept for the longest I have in a month. I was obviously feeling lazy this morning! I can see my average bedtime of 11.25pm is 21 minutes earlier than normal and I’ve been waking up later. Maybe I could get up sooner and go to the damn gym instead?
It will even work out ways to optimise for more steps, or active minutes etc. For example, when it doesn’t ‘rain or snow’ my average steps go up by 19% or when my average heart rate is above 85bpm it goes up 54% (because I logged a workout!)
Some correlations are less useful… apparently I weigh less on days when its windier…? after I get fewer likes on Instagram…? Yup, the trick to weight loss is obvious now… post junk on Instagram on windy days! The longer Exist collects data, the more useful it gets. I really like seeing the randomness of things I do mapped out on a graph, suddenly everything isn’t so random.
Overall, Exist is working really well for me. The cost is basically 2 pints a month (US$6/month) but I am getting so much use out of my health data being visualised in such a decent way its been totally worth it for me.
It’s helped me focus, and keeps me logging into MyFitnessPal every day. It focuses me on going for a walk, or just getting out of the house for a bit. All of these contribute more and more to my weight loss goals and just make me feel a happier person!
I hope this massive essay was helpful to anyone looking at how to get the most out of their health & fitness data. I’d love to hear any comments on how other people manage this sort of stuff, so do please comment if you read this!