Apple Health guide: The powerful fitness app explained

How to use Apple Health and some top tips to master it
Apple Health: Essential guide
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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.

Where can you find Apple Health?

The Apple Health app lives on the iPhone home screen and in the Apple Watch app screen if you have one of those handy too.

Just look for the white icon with the red heart and that's what you need to click on.

What can you track on Apple Health?

What can you track on Apple Health?

A lot is the simple answer. One thing to be clear of is that Apple Health isn't capable of tracking anything on its own. 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 flavour, Apple Health can store data including:

  • Steps
  • Walking + Running Distance
  • Flights Climbed
  • Heart rate
  • Nutrition
  • 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 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?

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, 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. These include:

  • Upright Go 2 posture trainer
  • La Roche-Posay My Skin UV sensor
  • Beddit Sleep monitor
  • Withings BPM Connect Wi-Fi smart blood pressure monitor
  • Withings Thermo thermometer
  • Withings Body Cardio Wi-Fi smart scales
  • Withings Body scales

Which apps work with Apple Health?

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 all the way down the Summary tab to find supported apps. These include:

  • WaterMinder
  • Lifesum
  • Sleep Cycle
  • iFertracker
  • iHealth MyVitals
  • Garmin Connect
  • Google Fit
  • Strava
  • 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 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 example 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 together as well if you don't do it straight away.

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.

In the specific app page in Health, there's also a little Data button. 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 a fitness tracker or smartwatch (like the Apple Watch), those devices can be alternatively used to provide your step counter as long as they are compatible with Apple Health.

It's important to note that Fitbit and Samsung devices aren't compatible with Apple Health, however, most other wearables are.

These include:

How does Apple Health track sleep?

How does Apple Health track sleep?

To track sleep on Apple Health, you need to rely on third party apps and devices to make that happen. So, in the example above, sleep data is pulled through from Garmin Connect while using a Fenix 6 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 prioritise for data displayed

How to use Apple Watch with Apple Health

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 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. Oh, and 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 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.

Use Apple Watch for fitness tracking data in Apple Health

To make sure your Apple Watch and not your iPhone is providing step counts, there's a simple way to check that's the case:

  • 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 fitness tracking from your Watch

Additionally, it offers the same for heart rate as well as enabling the Watch to use its microphone to measure environmental sound levels. it also supports the same support for headphone audio and other audio devices.

Set up irregular rhythm notifications

Set up irregular rhythm notifications on Apple Watch

One of the newer features being taken advantage of 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 Series 5, 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 ECG app

Set up ECG app

On the Apple Watch Series 4 and Series 5, 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

Apple Health: Essential guide

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 copy of the data, which you will no be able to share via the share button in the top right button.

How to view and use Medical ID

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 vitals 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 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 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 those contacts will automatically receive a message along with details of your location.

How to view clinical documents

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 all the way 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

Dealing with Apple Health and data privacy

Apple Health can be a hub for a lot of very sensitive information about you. You can have control of 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 too.

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.