With iOS 14.3 and watchOS 7.2, Apple Watch users can view their cardio fitness level in the Health app on iPhone, and receive a notification on Apple Watch if it falls within the low range. Breakthrough technology released in watchOS 7 allows Apple Watch to easily measure low cardio fitness, and today cardio fitness notifications empower users to be more active for dramatic long-term health benefits.
Cardiorespiratory fitness, as measured by VO₂ max, is the maximum amount of oxygen the body can use during exercise, and it can be increased through physical activity. Apple Watch already estimates average and higher levels of VO₂ max during vigorous outdoor walks, runs, or hikes, which many runners and other athletes monitor to improve performance.
Now, with watchOS 7, Apple Watch uses multiple sensors, including the optical heart sensor, GPS, and the accelerometer, to estimate lower levels, too. This is significant because direct measurement of VO₂ max typically requires a rigorous clinical test with specialized equipment that is not readily accessible to most people. watchOS 7 also allows Apple Watch to take cardio fitness measurements as users walk throughout the day, whether or not they are tracking a workout. With this innovation, Apple Watch is better able to measure VO₂ max for users with low cardio fitness, who may not complete high-intensity workouts.
In a 2016 scientific statement, the American Heart Association recognized a growing link between low cardio fitness and a higher risk of significant health issues, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity, later in life. Research even suggests cardio fitness is a stronger predictor of mortality risk than common risk factors like smoking, diabetes, and hypertension.
“Cardio fitness is increasingly recognized as a powerful predictor of overall health, and with today’s update to watchOS 7, we are making it even more accessible to more people,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, in a statement. “Using its advanced sensors, Apple Watch now brings estimation of low cardio fitness levels from clinics directly to a user’s wrist, so people have more insight into how they can improve their long-term health through daily activity.”
“American Heart Association science associates low cardiorespiratory fitness levels with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. The American Heart Association is focused on helping all people equitably achieve longer, healthier lives, and we believe that emerging technology solutions can empower individuals to manage their own health,” said Nancy Brown, American Heart Association CEO.
Today iOS 14.3 and watchOS 7.2 enable Apple Watch users to visit the Cardio Fitness category in the Health app on iPhone to review whether their cardio fitness level is classified as high, above average, below average, or low, relative to people in their same age group and of the same sex, according to data from the Fitness Registry and Importance of Exercise National Database (FRIEND). They can also see how their cardio fitness level has changed over the past week, month, or year. If a user’s level falls within the low range, they can receive a notification on Apple Watch, along with guidance on improving it over time and having a conversation with their doctor.
Apple Watch users can visit the Health app on iPhone to set up the Cardio Fitness Levels feature and turn on cardio fitness notifications.