Four Hidden Apple Watch Health Features You’re Not Using

Beyond Apple Watch’s ability to track basic activities like steps and exercise, more sophisticated features like ECG, high/low heart rate warnings, and fall detection offer plenty of value. and caught the attention of the general public. But flying under the radar, the Apple Watch has several important lesser-known capabilities that measure everything from current to future overall health, the likelihood of death, and your basal metabolic rate. Let’s look at four hidden health features of the Apple Watch that you’re probably not using.

Four hidden health features of the Apple Watch

VO2 max

VO2 max tracking on Apple Watch is hidden for two reasons. First of all, even if you search for the metric, it is disabled by default and has a different name on watchOS/iOS: Cardio Fitness.

Second, once enabled, VO2 max / Cardio Fitness readings are only recorded with Apple Watch while hiking, walking or running outdoors (specifically choosing those from the workout app Apple Watch).

While you’ll get VO2 max readings less often because they’re only measured for three types of workouts, it’s a great feature to set up.

In addition to helping understand your cardiorespiratory fitness, research shows that VO2 max is a good indicator of overall health and predicts long-term health. Check out our complete guide on setting up and using VO2 max:

Heart rate variability

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is automatically captured by Apple Watch, but is not visible in the wearable device’s native Heart Rate app. To see it, you’ll need to head to the iPhone’s Health app > Browse > Heart.

What is HRV? It’s the measure of how the time interval between heartbeats changes, measured in milliseconds – notably it’s a metric that changes a lot, so it’s important to look at broad trends, not daily numbers.

HRV is considered by many in the medical field to be a powerful indicator not only of current overall health and resilience of the heart and body, but also a powerful predictor of future mortality.

HRV is also often used as a signal to understand when the body is ready for exercise or rest. This is all due to the HRV which shows how sensitive the heart is to our autonomic nervous system.

Heart rate recovery

Heart rate recovery is a little less hidden than HRV because it automatically shows up on Apple Watch and iPhone after tracking a workout.

But what does that mean? Like HRV, heart rate recovery can indicate heart health by how well it listens to the autonomic nervous system.

Studies have shown that an abnormally low heart rate recovery is a good predictor of being 2 times more likely to die within six years.

basal metabolic rate

Apple Watch prominently displays active calories burned, but what about passive calories, also known as your basal metabolic rate?

Although Apple Watch tracks this, it’s not visible on wearable, you’ll need to head to the Health app on iPhone and do a bit of math.

Understanding your passive calorie burn / basal metabolic rate is valuable because it can show you the impact of increasing muscle mass (more muscle = more passive calories burned). And of course, understanding how much food to eat is also essential if you’re looking to be in a calorie deficit or a calorie surplus.

And if you want to go deeper into understanding your real-time metabolism, I recommend checking out Lumen’s Pocket Metabolic Analyzer (Reviewed) that works with Apple Health.

Did you use some or all of these advanced Apple Watch features? Or can’t wait to try them? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

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