10 hidden Activity app features that will take your fitness to the next level

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Discover the secrets of the Apple Activity app.
Discover the secrets of the Activity app.
Photo illustration: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

At first glance, the iPhone Activity app seems pretty simple. It’s basically just a calendar to keep track of your daily Activity Rings. But if you know where to look, you’ll find a surprising number of pro features buried beneath that slick, simple interface.

So check out our top 10 iPhone Activity app tips and discover some indispensable stats that will help take your fitness to the next level.

Top 10 Activity app tips

1. Check how your Move goal changed over time

Go to the Calendar view in the History tab. (You might have to tap the History tab twice to get back there.) Now swipe to the right on the calendar and keep your finger down. Your Move rings will be highlighted. To the left of the calendar, you will see your Move goals for each week. (You also will see a percentage that indicates how much each one increased or decreased from the previous week.)

How to check your Move goal history.
How to check your Move goal history.
Screenshot: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

2. See your total calories, not just your active calories

By default, the Activity app shows your Active calories, which is actually less than the total calories you burned. Why? Because your body burns calories even when you are sitting on the couch doing nothing, just to keep you alive. This is what is known as your basal metabolic rate. Apple deducts this from your total calories to give you what it calls Active calories — the extra calories you burned by moving.

But you can still see your total calories in the Activity app. Just tap on the activity rings for any day in the calendar. Then swipe left on the Move chart to reveal the total calories burned.

How to reveal your total calories in the iPhone Activity app.
How to reveal your total calories burned.
Screenshots: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

3. View your Activity progress by week, month and year

By default, the Activity app only shows your data as rings for each day. That is a bit limiting if you want to see how your progress builds up over time.

Fortunately, you can also view your Activity data by week, month and year. But you must switch apps to do this. In the Health app’s Today tab, tap on the black Activity panel. There, you’ll find bar charts of your Move, Exercise and Stand goals. It’s similar to what you get in the Activity app, but with one big difference: Here you will find Week, Month and Year tabs at the top (W, M & Y) that let you switch between views. You can also swipe right to scroll back through your entire history.

I find the year view particularly useful, because it lets you compare months at a glance and quickly spot any trends.

How to view activity by month and year in the Apple Health app.
How to view activity by month and year.
Screenshots: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

4. See which days you logged a workout

The green ring in the Activity app indicates how much exercise you logged on a given day, but that does not mean you logged a workout. In the Apple fitness world, Exercise and Workouts are not the same thing. You get credited with Exercise minutes whenever your heart rate is sufficiently elevated. Even if you didn’t log a workout.

But you can still tell at a glance which days you logged a workout. They are marked with a small green dot that appears top-right of the Activity rings.

5. Check your monthly totals for workout duration and calories

The Workout tab by default shows a long chronological list of every workout you ever logged, starting with the most recent. That gets a bit overwhelming if you log a lot of workouts.

Fortunately, the Activity app also provides monthly summaries. Just tap on the year (2019), top-left, and you will see a list of total Workouts, Time and Calories for each month.

How to view monthly workout totals in the Apple Activity app.
How to view monthly workout totals.
Screenshots: Graham Bower/ Cult of Mac

6. Check your average monthly pace and distance

Average pace and distance are indispensable metrics for every serious runner or cyclist, but they are pretty well hidden in the Activity app.

By default, the monthly summaries (see tip 5 above) only show number of workouts, time and calories. But if you tap All Workouts (top-right) and select Running or Walking, Average Pace and Distance will be added to the list.

How to check your average monthly pace and distance in the Activity app on your iPhone.
How to check your average monthly pace and distance.
Screenshots: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

7. Check your Split Times and Sets in the Activity app

Serious runners, swimmers and cyclists will also want to take a closer look at what happened during the workout. Did you speed up or slow down? Did you have any rest intervals?

The Activity app provides a surprising amount of detail. In any Swimming, Running or Outdoor Cycling workout, scroll down to Splits and tap on the downward arrow. This will reveal your pace for each 100m (swimming) or mile/kilometer (running and cycling).

Note that Splits does not always appear straight away. Sometimes it takes a while to load, so be patient.

Swimming workouts also include Auto Sets. Again, you need to tap the downward arrow to reveal them. This breaks your workout down into rest intervals and exercise intervals, even indicating which stroke you did in each set.

How to view segments and splits in the Activity app.
How to view segments and splits.
Screenshot: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

8. View the segments of your HIIT workout

If you like doing high-intensity interval training (aka HIIT), it’s handy to see your workout broken down into segments. That way, you can see how your pace and heart rate varied for each segment (and the total number of segments you completed).

To get a breakdown of your workout like this, you just need to remember to double-tap your Apple Watch face at the end of each segment during your workout. The number of the previous segment should display, together with the elapsed time and distance.

After finishing a workout that includes segments, if you check it in the iPhone Activity app, you will see a Segments panel next to Splits. Just tap the downward arrow to reveal your segment breakdown.

9. View your heart rate recovery charts

Heart rate recovery is an excellent test of fitness. It measures how quickly your heart rate returns to normal after you finish a workout. Simply put, the fitter you are, the quicker your recovery will be.

When you finish a workout, you can view your Heart Rate Recovery on your watch. But if you forget to check it then, all is not lost. Apple also stores these charts in the Activity app on your iPhone for later viewing.

Just select a workout and then swipe-left on the Heart Rate chart to reveal your Heart Rate Recovery data for that workout. (Check out my post on heart rate recovery for more details on what this essential metric means.)

How to check your Heart Rate Recovery in the iPhone Activity app.
How to check your heart rate recovery data.
Screenshots: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

10. Enjoy your duvet day in private

Activity sharing on Apple Watch can quickly become over-sharing. Especially if you have gym rat friends who keep triggering endless notifications of all the wonderful workouts they crushed, just as you are about to stuff your face with empty carbs.

Fortunately, the Activity app provides a discrete solution without all the embarrassment of unfriending. In the Sharing tab, just tap on your overactive friend. Scroll down and tap Mute Notifications. While you’re at it, you can also tap Hide My Activity if you want to spend the day in bed without incurring judgment.