Wednesday, June 19, 2024

watchOS 11 adds long-awaited fitness features

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watchOS 11 will monitor your Training Load, enable you to pause your Activity Rings when you’re sick, and track your pregnancy, Apple said Monday. These features, together with a new Vitals app, represent another major step forward for Apple’s health and fitness wearable.

Your Apple Watch face gets some love, too, with improvements to the photo face and widget stack.

New features in watchOS 11

The new Training Load feature in watchOS 11
There’ll be no slacking off now that your Apple Watch is monitoring how much effort you put in.

New training Load feature tells you how much work you’re putting in

Training Load is a new feature in watchOS 11 that rates how much effort you put into each workout, and tracks changing trends in your effort over time. It’s already a popular feature on watches from competitors likes Garmin. You don’t have to wait for watchOS 11 if you want to try it out. It’s already available for Apple Watch users via third party apps such as Bevel and Athlytics. Apple will now be giving these apps a run for their money.

Third-party app developer Stéphane Lizeray has already introduced detailed training load charts in his excellent HealthFit app, based on a scientific paper published in 1991 called “Modeling Elite Athletic Performance” by E.W. Bannister. This introduced the “training impulse” model, sometimes called TRIMP. Lizeray says it’s the “only published scientific paper” on the subject and speculates this is likely to be the starting point for Apple’s training load feature too. Although Apple claims it uses “an innovative new algorithm.”

More workout maps, hiking topography and directions

New downloadable topographic maps with turn-by-turn directions for hikers could provide an alternative to popular third-party outdoor workout apps such as WorkOutDoors.

Distance and route maps now come to more workout types, including rowing. Pool Swims gain support for custom workouts. And the Workout app will also enable you to check in with friends, so they know when you’re going out for a run, and can make sure you get back safely.

The new pause Activity Rings feature in watchOS 11
The new Pause Activity Rings feature lets you take a break when you’re sick.

Activity Rings finally add much-requested features

The redesigned Fitness app introduces features long-time ring fans have been requesting for years. Most notably, you finally have the option to pause your Activity Rings when you’re sick, so when you’re battling a nasty cold, at least you don’t have to worry about losing your streak. A similar feature is already included in Gentler Streak, a third-party workout app that won an Apple Design Award this year.

You can also now set different goals for different days of the week. Which is great, because it recognizes the reality that we’re not all robots that do exactly the same workout every day, and most workout routines have rest days built in. Now you can set yourself more challenging exercise goals on your workout days.

The new Vitals app in watchOS 11
Apple Watch can spot outliers in your vital signs that may be the result of alcohol consumption.
Photo: Apple

New Vitals apps tells you why you (probably) had a bad night’s sleep

The new Vitals watch app tracks key health metrics: heart rate, respiration, temperature, blood oxygen and sleep. It warns you when there is an “outlier” reading which is different to your normal vital signs, and offers helpful observations like “This could be due to many factors including illness or alcohol consumption.”

The Cycle Tracking app adds support for pregnancy tracking
The Cycle Tracking app now monitors data related to your pregnancy.

Cycle Tracking adds useful new features

For those who are pregnant, the Cycle Tracking app now enables you to track gestation age and log symptoms for things frequently experienced during pregnancy, like changes in appetite.

Pregnancy is highlighted in the Health app as a “life factor” on relevant charts, such as resting heart rate.

The improved Photos face in watchOS 11
Its tens across the board for the new Photos face.

The Apple Watch face get another face-lift

If you like to make your watch face really pop, you might want to check out the redesigned Photos face, which comes with new color and typographic options. Plus it automatically picks out photos it thinks will make great faces.

The widget stack gets an upgrade too, with interactive widgets that let you control HomeKit devices, more intelligent smart stacks, live activities and check-ins.

And Apple’s handy Translation app comes to watchOS. As an English speaker living in Spain, this me gusto mucho.

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