How to use Apple Health: Essential tips for your app

How to use Apple Health and some top tips to master it
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Apple Health is a place where you can store and track all of your health and fitness data in one place.

Whether that's steps, cycling runs, or even more serious health data like blood pressure and glucose levels, Apple Health can draw data from trackers, smartwatches, scales, and other devices and put them in one place.

After its launch in 2014, it has evolved to become somewhere where even more of that data can live and be pulled in from devices like the Apple Watch, the iPhone, sleep monitors, or third-party apps like Strava. It's more useful than it has ever been.

Whether you're just getting to know Apple Health for the first time or looking for ways to get more out of the software, we break down how it works, what it can track, and much more.

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What can you track on Apple Health?


A lot is the simple answer. Apple Health is designed to be a single place for data from your various wearables and fitness apps to live. 

This is all about pulling in that information from the device it's installed on, compatible third-party apps, and devices.

To give you a flavor, Apple Health can store data including:

  • Steps
  • Walking + Running Distance
  • Flights Climbed
  • Walking steadiness
  • Respiratory rate
  • Headphone audio levels
  • Cardio fitness
  • Heart rate / Resting heart rate
  • Skin temperature
  • Sleep Analysis
  • Heart rate variability
  • Weight

These are all listed as Health Categories in the Browse section of the app.

When you expand those different categories, you'll find the most recent data tracked dependent on devices and apps pushing data to it.

In many instances where you might not currently be tracking a particular piece of data, Apple does make app recommendations that work with Health to help you start to do that.

What devices work with Apple Health?


As mentioned, Apple Health can pull in data from a range of hardware. For starters, it can pull health and fitness data from iPhones, the iPod Touch, and, of course, all versions of the Apple Watch.

Then there's a sizeable collection of third-party devices that can widen the type of data that's stored in Apple Health.

There are too many individual devices to name – but integrations with Apple Health are done at a platform level. That means it's your wearable's app that connects to Apple Health – and most of the big wearable players offer data syncing.

The exact data points do differ, but most will sync steps, active time, heart rate (highs, lows, and resting not 24/7 data), running, and workout data - although things like GPS routes won't be synced.

Here are the main wearable device platforms that will hook up to Apple Health.

  • Garmin Connect
  • Polar Flow
  • Huawei Health
  • Samsung Health 
  • Withings Heath Mate
  • Whoop
  • Amazfit

Fitbit and Apple Health

You'll notice that Fitbit isn't on the list. Fitbit hasn't opened up its data to Apple Health, and there's no official way to sync data between the two.

But there is a non-official workaround.

You can download apps like Sync for Apple Health that act as a go-between. It's a bit of a hack, but if you're determined to get data between the two services, it might just do the job.

Which apps work with Apple Health?


Along with hardware, you can also pull in a range of data from apps. The easiest way to find compatible apps is to go to the Apple Health app on your device and scroll down the Summary tab to find supported apps. These include:

  • WaterMinder
  • Lifesum
  • Carrot Fit
  • Fiit
  • Sleep Cycle
  • iFertracker
  • iHealth MyVitals
  • Garmin Connect
  • Google Fit
  • MapMyRun
  • Strava
  • Withings Health Mate
  • Weight Watchers
  • MyFitnessPal

There are a few high-profile names that don't work with Apple Health that might be a cause for disappointment. Official Apple Health support for Fitbit doesn't exist for example. That being said, there's still an impressive amount of apps that are compatible to push a wide range of data into Health.

How to connect an app with Apple Health


How you push that data from those apps into Apple Health will vary.

We've broken down how you can connect Strava to Apple Health for instance to give you an example of how it can look.

Many apps will offer a prompt to share to Apple Health during setup, but you will be able to head into the app's settings to connect the two as well if you don't do it straight away.

Here's how to connect an app to Apple Health:

  • Once you have granted access, you can head to the Apps section of the Health app to see the ones you've enabled.
  • Find the list by tapping on your profile button in the top right corner, and hitting Apps under the Privacy heading.
  • If you choose an app source, you'll be greeted with a host of options.
  • You can customize what data you want to share with Apple Health, or you can toggle the entire service off. It all depends on how much you want to share.

There's also a little Data button on the specific app page in Health. If you tap that, you'll be whisked off to a screen that breaks down the data you've gained from that app. Here, you'll be able to delete any data you believe to be erroneous.

How does Apple Health track steps?

If you are all about step tracking, Apple Health does that by using the accelerometer motion sensor inside of your iPhone to track movement. That's the same motion sensor tech that's used by smartwatches and fitness trackers.

If you wear an Apple Watch, the step data from that will take priority in Apple Health.

For those that wear a different fitness tracker or smartwatch, those devices can be alternatively used to provide your step count, as long as they are compatible with Apple Health.

Remember that Fitbit and Samsung devices aren't compatible with Apple Health, however, most other wearables are.

How does Apple Health track sleep?


To track sleep on Apple Health, you can use an Apple Watch that supports Apple's new native sleep tracking. We've done a big breakdown of how Apple Watch sleep tracking works if you want more details on that.

If you don't have an Apple Watch, you can also rely on third-party apps and devices to make that happen. So for example, sleep data could be pulled through from Garmin Connect while using a Garmin watch to track sleep activity.

That information can be found in the Sleep Analysis tab in the Summary section of the Apple Health app. There are a host of sleep analysis apps like Sleep++ and Sleep Cycle that can help enhance those sleep insights.

If you want to know what sources are pushing sleep data to Apple Health:

  • Go to Summary, then Favourites, and then select Show All Health Data
  • Look for Sleep Analysis and scroll down to find Data Source and Access
  • You'll be able to see a list of data sources that are pushing data to Apple Health
  • If there are multiple sources, Apple will select one to prioritize for the data displayed

How to use Apple Watch with Apple Health


As explained, you can use a range of devices to push data to Apple Health and the Apple Watch is probably one of the best at doing that.

Not just because it's made by Apple, but also because it can generate a wide range of health and fitness data from onboard features and Apple Watch apps to give you a much more comprehensive picture of your daytime (and in some cases, nighttime) activity.

No matter which Apple Watch you have, you'll be able to see your VO2 Max, your active energy, your resting energy, your stand hours, your resting heart rate, your walking heart rate average, and your heart rate variability.

If you take on the Apple Watch's breathing reminders, those will show up in the Mindfulness data on the app.

We've picked out some top tips to make the most of the Apple Watch with Apple Health:

How to view Apple Watch data in Apple Health

You can check out all the data directly from your Watch by tapping your profile button in the top right of the app, tapping Devices, and selecting your Apple Watch.

You'll get a breakdown of all the information your smartwatch is feeding to Health.

How to check which apps/devices have access to Apple Health data

You can check which wearables and health apps have access to your Apple Health data – and kill access to any that do. You can also wipe any data before deleting apps in the normal way.

  • Go to the Health app and tap the profile icon in the top right-hand corner
  • Select Devices and locate your Apple Watch
  • Tap Privacy Settings and you'll see options to toggle on/off data access.

Add your vaccine record to Apple Health

1. Get your vaccine record and hold your iPhone camera up to the QR code. If you have a screenshot of it, the option should appear when viewed in the Photos app.

2. An Apple Health app notification will appear, tap that to add.

3. Choose to Add to Wallet & Health to add the record to the Health app and Wallet app.

Set up irregular rhythm notifications


One of the more recent Watch features that are being powered into Health is irregular heartbeat notifications.

This will allow your Apple Watch, all the way back to Series 1, to check for irregular heartbeats.

If it senses something, it'll let you know to check it out with your doctor, as irregular heartbeats can be a sign of atrial fibrillation. If you've got a Series 4 or later, all your ECG readings will also be in the same area.

To set up irregular rhythm notifications:

  • Go to Apple Health and select Summary
  • Scroll down to find the option to set up irregular rhythm notifications
  • Follow the instructions to complete setting up the notifications

Read this: Apple Watch heart rate guide

Set up the ECG app


On the Apple Watch Series 4 or later, you can take heart rate readings that can help to indicate and detect signs of serious heart health conditions. That data can be pulled into Apple Health.

We've already gone into great detail on how the Apple Watch ECG app works.

If you want to set up the ECG app from the Apple Health app, do the following:

  • Go to Summary and scroll down to find the set-up ECG app option
  • Follow the instructions, which will explain the kind of information you may see related to your heart, and take that first reading

Create a PDF of ECG readings in Apple Health


Once you've set up the ECG app for your compatible Apple Watch, readings will be stored in Health. You also have the option to make that information shareable, which may be useful if a doctor has requested to see it. To share ECG results with your doctor you need to:

  • After taking an ECG reading, go to the Health app
  • Go to the Browse tab and tap on Heart
  • Select Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Go to All Data and tap on a reading.
  • There will be an option to Export a PDF for your Doctor. It will generate a copy of the data, which you will not be able to share via the share button in the top right button.

How to view and use Medical ID


While Apple Health is a hub for all of your tracked data, it does serve another purpose and that's to quickly help share vital information with first responders that may prove life-saving. These include allergies, medications, blood type, and whether you're an organ donor.

The feature is available on both the iPhone and the Apple Watch and can be viewed when the devices are locked. It's important to clarify that this information is not included in your health data and is shared with other apps.

To add information to Medical ID:

  • Tap into your profile at the top right of the screen, then select Medical ID, and tap Edit to change and add details.

To view Medical ID when iPhone is locked:

Tap Emergency, then Medical ID

To view your Medical ID on your Apple Watch:

  • Press and hold the side button
  • Drag the Medical ID slider to the right

In addition to vital medical information, you can also add emergency contacts from the same place. By doing this, when the emergency SOS button is used on your iPhone or Apple Watch, those contacts will automatically receive a message along with details of your location.

How to view clinical documents


This is another feature that's aimed at anyone that's looking at using Apple Health as a way to store hospital documentation, if eligible. It won't work for most people but could be a great bonus if your medical provider allows for it.

This is what Apple calls Health Records, one of its initiatives to make it as easy as possible for you to have control over your health. If your insurer or hospital is signed up for Health Records, you'll be able to see all your health records right here.

So all your procedures, vaccinations, lab results, medications and more will live right here. If you need to go to a new doctor for some treatment, you won't have to wait for your old doctor to give you your health records – you now own them.

You'll also be able to store medical records in the app on your own if your medical expert shares them with you. You'll just need to make sure they give you the Clinical Document Architecture files.

To view those Clinical Documents:

  • Go to the Apple Health app and tab on Browse
  • Scroll down to find Clinical Documents
  • From here you can choose to show all records and the apps you approved to send data to those documents

Dealing with Apple Health and data privacy


Apple Health can be a hub for a lot of very sensitive information about you. You can control what apps and devices have access to health data. 

As Apple notes on its website, "When your phone is locked with a passcode, Touch ID or Face ID, all of your health and fitness data in the Health app - other than your Medical ID - is encrypted".

Apple uses iCloud to sync data across devices and that data remains encrypted when it's moved and stored in Apple's cloud storage service. If you're unsure and want to have a better idea of what data is shared, do the following:

  • Go to Summary on the Apple Health app and tap the top right icon, which should include a picture of yourself.
  • Look for Privacy and then select Apps. From here, you can see the full list of apps and select each one individually to see which health data you've allowed those apps to access.
  • The same action can be performed to see what health data your paired devices have access to.

Back up your Apple Health data

It's worth making sure you've got a backup of your Health data from time to time – just in case.

To do this:

  • Tap on your profile icon, which appears in the top right, and then tap Export All Health Data

It may take a few minutes, but it will give you a file that can be stored away should something terrible happen and you lose all of your precious recorded data.

How we test

Michael Sawh


Michael Sawh has been covering the wearable tech industry since the very first Fitbit landed back in 2011. Previously the resident wearable tech expert at Trusted Reviews, he also marshaled the features section of

He also regularly contributed to T3 magazine when they needed someone to talk about fitness trackers, running watches, headphones, tablets, and phones.

Michael writes for GQ, Wired, Coach Mag, Metro, MSN, BBC Focus, Stuff, TechRadar and has made several appearances on the BBC Travel Show to talk all things tech. 

Michael is a lover of all things sports and fitness-tech related, clocking up over 15 marathons and has put in serious hours in the pool all in the name of testing every fitness wearable going. Expect to see him with a minimum of two wearables at any given time.

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