Jay Blahnik has been one of Apple’s key hires in getting the Apple Watch and now in one of his first extensive interviews since joining the company, Apple’s fitness guru has revealed how his teams of experts tried to differentiate the Apple Watch in the hugely competitive new wearables market.
When it came down to making Apple Watch, it wasn’t just about making something that looks good that also tracks your steps and calories. Blahnik tells Outside that Apple’s goal was to silence the noise by ignoring the fitness trends and focusing in on the three things that mattered the most.
Here are seven key things we learned from the interview:
Apple’s fitness experts wanted the device to focus on three areas:
“The team really focused on saying, ‘As fitness and activity and trends come and go, what would always be a good recommendation?’” Blahnik says. “It came down to sit less, move more, and get some exercise.”
Apple’s fitness lab has more data than anyone:
26 full-time nurses and 14 exercise physiologists have collected more than 33,000 hours of fitness data from Apple volunteers, testing them in one of three temperature-controlled exercise rooms, outside on bikes, on the floor of the main fitness facility, and in the adjoining yoga studio. Jay claims Apple owns more metabolic cart,and has possibly collected more exercise data, than any other university, sports lab, or research institution in the world.
Apple Watch won’t measure weightlifting anytime soon:
“With strength training, there’s no sensor that measures the load in your hand,” Blahnik notes. In the future, an app could be paired to dumbells and clothing to determine your load and correct your form, but the Apple Watch won’t be able to do it on its own.
Jay Blahnik is one of those fast-walker types
“Circumnavigating the Apple campus at Infinite Loop at a brisk walk with Blahnik takes 10 minutes and 16 seconds and burns 35 active calories,” writes Outside. Based on my quick Google Maps tracing of Apple HQ, that’s a little over half a mile in ten minutes.
Even if you’re a recreational athlete you need to move more:
“There are health risks associated with [being sedentary]. Not moving is dangerous. Regardless of how often you exercise, being active throughout the day in big and small ways is really important. I think this is how we need to look at things across the board.”
The Activity app’s algorithm is wicked smart:
“Apple was able to build its own fitness algorithms to power Activity, increasing the app’s accuracy and intelligence. It’s smart enough to learn just how fit you are and how many calories you’re actually burning compared to somebody your same weight who isn’t in as good shape as you are.”
Even with Apple Watch data, experts still have a lot to learn
“The human body is incredibly complex. There’s no sensor or product that will get every single measurement right every single time. You have to go beyond machines—you need to get people on real runs and bike rides. All that data shows just how much we still have to learn about fitness.”