Apple Watch Calorie Counts: What You Must Know

Is there anything more satisfying than completing your Apple Watch activity rings? No, I don’t think so.

While the watch is easy to use, it may not be so easy to understand. Working out means burning calories; so, what’s the deal with the different numbers for “active calories” and “total calories”? Are these counts even accurate? Let’s answer these questions — and soon, you will have the knowledge of a fitness guru!

Firstly, we must establish what a “calorie” is. Calories, in the fitness sense, are units of energy gained through food consumption. Burning calories means burning units of energy — the energy you need to function, exercise, and go about your daily life.

“Active calories” are the calories you burn through exercise. However, even while you actively and intentionally use the energy units to achieve your fitness goals, your body naturally burns even MORE calories. This number, the “total calories”, is the calories you would burn even if your body was at rest. Since you are working out for some time, and your body inherently burns calories all day (by nature of being alive), the exercise calories and naturally-burned calories must be added together.

The accuracy of Apple Watches and other fitness trackers is something to consider. The energy expenditure algorithm of these devices is difficult to make accurate for everyone, as the many factors of height, weight, sex, and muscle mass would throw off a certain “equation”.

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Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine ran a fitness tracker experiment on 60 different people. While the heart rate tracking was accurate, every device failed in the calorie counting regard. The closest device to accuracy was off by 23% — the furthest from accuracy was 93%. So, as I said earlier, those calorie counts must be taken with a grain of salt. You should view exercise and calories burned as a movement towards a goal — not necessarily the wiggle-room you burned so you can include an extra cookie in your diet.

Apple Watches and other fitness trackers are not the end-all-be-all; instead, view them as a tool that helps your accountability!

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