There are three rings to close on your Apple Watch: Stand, Move, and Exercise. The Exercise ring is supposed to track how many minutes you spent exercising that day, but how does it know?
You might have noticed that the Exercise ring fills up even when you haven’t used the Workout app. In contrast, sometimes it doesn’t fill up even when you do use the Workout app!
In this article, we’ll explain how an Apple Watch counts Exercise minutes and what to do if it doesn’t fill your ring accurately.
- How to Analyze Your Apple Watch Workouts
- How to Meet Your Apple Watch Move Goal Every Day
- Apple Watch Move vs. Exercise Rings: Know the Difference
How Does the Apple Watch Count Exercise Minutes?
Throughout the day—whether you’re using the Workout app or not—your Apple Watch measures your heart rate and movement to count Exercise minutes and fill up your Exercise ring.
Apple says your Apple Watch is looking for any activity that’s as intense (or more intense) than a brisk walk. For wheelchair users, your Apple Watch is looking for activity that’s as intense (or more intense) than a brisk push.
Every minute you spend performing an activity of this intensity counts toward filling your Exercise ring.
If you aren’t already using the Workout app after a prolonged period of exercise, your Apple Watch will prompt you to start automatically recording a workout, which helps to count Exercise minutes more accurately.
And that’s how your Apple Watch fills the Exercise ring—though you might still be wondering what constitutes a brisk walk.
What Is a Brisk Walk?
If your Exercise ring isn’t counting minutes properly, you might question exactly what Apple considers to be a brisk walk. But this term is intentionally vague.
Your Apple Watch uses everything it knows about your sex, height, weight, resting heart rate, and other details to determine what counts as a brisk walk or not. That means a brisk walk could be quite different from person to person.
In general, your Apple Watch is looking for an elevated heart rate while sensing movement. That movement could be the swinging of your arms as you walk or movement measured using the GPS on your Apple Watch or iPhone.
The simplest answer is that a brisk walk is when you’re walking fast enough that you wouldn’t be able to sing and walk at the same time. Any exercise of this intensity or more should count towards filling your Exercise ring.
Why Won’t My Apple Watch Count Exercise Minutes?
Sometimes your Apple Watch doesn’t seem to fill up the Exercise ring no matter how difficult your workout is. This intermittent tracking is particularly common when walking, where you might find only part of your walk counted toward filling the ring.
There are a few reasons your Apple Watch might not count Exercise minutes, but you can fix them all by following the steps below.
Step 1. Update Your Personal Details in the Health App
Your Apple Watch uses details about you in the Health app on your iPhone to help decide what counts as exercise or not. These details include your sex, height, and weight.
Use your iPhone to update your Health Details:
- Open the Apple Watch app and go to the My Watch tab.
- Scroll down and open the Health settings, then tap Health Details.
- Tap Edit and enter the correct Date of Birth, Height, Weight, and Wheelchair settings, then tap Done.
Step 2. Calibrate the Apple Watch to Your Walking Style
Everybody has a slightly different walking style and your Apple Watch needs to learn your style to accurately measure Exercise minutes. To calibrate your Apple Watch, all you need to do is use the Workout app to record at least 20 minutes of outdoor walking.
On your Apple Watch:
- Press the Digital Crown and open the Workout app.
- Start an Outdoor Walk workout.
- Go outdoors and walk for at least 20 minutes. If you don’t have time to do it all at once, repeat this multiple times for shorter walks that add up to 20 minutes or more.
Note: If you have an Apple Watch Series 1 or earlier, you need to keep your iPhone on you to use the GPS since your Apple Watch doesn’t have one built in.
Step 3. Allow Your Arm to Swing Naturally While Walking
If you’re going for a walk, your Apple Watch might not count Exercise minutes if it doesn’t sense any motion in your arm. We naturally swing our arms while we walk and your Apple Watch uses this to confirm you’re actually walking.
Make sure that the arm you wear your Apple Watch on is free to swing naturally while you walk. That might mean keeping your hands out of your pockets or holding the dog’s leash in the other hand.
If you can’t leave your arm to swing naturally—for example, if you’re pushing a stroller—use the Workout to start an Outdoor Walk instead.
This makes your Apple Watch use GPS as well as the accelerometer to sense movement. So even if your arms aren’t moving, it should detect that you’re out for a walk with the GPS.
Step 4. Start an Other Workout
If your Apple Watch still won’t count Exercise minutes properly, you can always use the Other workout in the Workout app instead.
When you start an Other workout, the Apple Watch counts Exercise minutes regardless of how much movement it detects.
The downside to using the Other workout is that you won’t be able to view a map of your route, see your pace, or find out the total distance you traveled because it doesn’t track any movement.
Keep Working to Close Your Rings
The Apple Watch is a fantastic motivational tool. Striving to close your Stand, Move, and Exercise rings every day will keep you pushing yourself to stay active and fit.
This is exactly why it’s so frustrating if your Apple Watch doesn’t count Exercise minutes properly. It makes all that hard work seem as though it was for nothing.
Now that you know how your Apple Watch counts Exercise minutes and what to do if your ring stops filling up. So it shouldn’t happen anymore. You still might want some extra help trying to close your Move ring every day though!