Apple Watch not reading heart rate? Here’s the fix.

Apple watch resting heart rate

Many users noticed that after the latest iOS update, their Apple Watch was having several issues with the heart rate feature. From Apple Watch not reading heart rate to heart rate not recording, there have been many issues.

Is this due to a bug in the Apple Watch’s programming? Or is there an issue with the device itself? Keep reading to see what applies to your situation.

Suggested Reading:

Is your heart rate not showing up on your Apple Watch face?

heart rate complication apple watch
Many watch faces on the Apple Watch display your heart rate in real-time.

If your heart rate is not showing up on your Apple Watch face complication, then the first thing you need to do is check to see if Background App Refresh is on for Heart Rate. 

turn apple watch's background app refresh for some apps

  1. To turn on Background App Refresh, open the Watch app on your iPhone.
  2. Select General and tap on Background App Refresh.

    turn on heart rate background app refresh
     Here you can see Background App Refresh is on for Heart Rate.
  3. Then, scroll down to make sure that the Heart Rate option is on.

If Background App Refresh is on, then the next thing you need to check is to see if you have Power Saving Mode during workouts enabled. 

  1. To check this, open the Settings app on your Apple Watch.
  2. Then, you have to scroll down to Workout, tap it, and ensure that Power Saving Mode is off. 

If you have checked both of these settings and they are correct, the next step you need to do is reboot your Apple Watch. force restart an apple watch

  • To reboot your Apple Watch, press and hold down both the crown and side buttons until the Apple logo appears on the screen.
  • Let your watch reboot for a minute. Once it is up and running, check to see if your heart rate complication is working.

Heart Rate not recording data during workout

monitor heart rate with Apple Watch

If your Apple Watch is not recording your heart rate during a workout, there’s a simple fix for this.

First, check to see how your watch band fits.

Is it too loose? Too tight? For your Apple Watch to check your heart rate, the sensor needs to connect with your skin.

So make sure your watch band fits just right. If it is too loose, the sensor won’t be able to record your heart rate.

But if your watch fits perfectly, then go ahead and restart your Apple Watch.

After your watch restarts, go check to see if it records your heart rate during a workout.

If your Apple Watch still isn’t recording your heart rate during a workout, then let’s check your iPhone’s privacy settings.Apple Watch heart rate tracking privacy settings on iPhone

  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone, and scroll down to Privacy.
  2. Scroll down to Motion & Fitness and make sure that both Fitness Tracking and Health are on. 

Once you make sure those settings are on, open the Watch app on your iPhone. 

  1. First, you want to check to see if Workout Power Saving Mode is on. If it is, you need to turn it off. To do so, scroll down to Workout and if it is on, turn it off.
  2. Next, you want to check if Heart Rate and Fitness Tracking are on. Go to the Privacy tab and confirm those features are on. Apple Watch privacy settings for heart rate and fitness tracking
  3. Lastly, make sure Wrist Detection is on. Go to Passcode and make sure that it is on. 
wrist detection apple watch settings app
Wrist Detection automatically locks your Apple Watch when you’re not wearing it.

If any of those settings were incorrect, that is most likely the reason why your Apple Watch was not recording your heart rate.

But if those settings are correct and you’re still having issues with the heart rate feature, the problem might be with your sensor. 

Is the issue with your Apple Watch’s sensor?

If you have tried all of our previous suggestions on fixing your Apple Watch’s heart rate, then the issue may be with your watch’s sensor.

The sensor is on the back of the watch itself. In the past, you may have noticed a green or red light there from time to time. That’s the sensor! sensors on the back of Apple Watch Series 6

To check to see if the sensor is working, you should first check your heart rate in the Heart Rate app.

If everything looks normal, the issue might be due to the delay from the Workout app. 

But if the Heart Rate chart is inconsistent, then the issue is definitely due to the sensor.

Try cleaning the watch’s sensors 

Before you do anything drastic, try giving your watch and its sensor a good cleaning.

The best way to clean your Apple Watch is to wipe it with a nonabrasive, lint-free cloth. You can lightly dampen the cloth with some water, a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe, or Clorox Disinfecting wipe.

All you need is a little bit of water to clean your watch. You should not use soap or other cleaning products to clean your Apple Watch. While you’re at it, you might as well clean your watch band too!

If it’s cold outside

Something to keep in mind is that, according to Apple, cold weather can make your heart rate readings unreliable.

So if you have issues during the colder days, that could be why. If this happens, try wearing something warmer when you do your workout. 

If you are still having issues after that, unpairing and re-pairing also seem to help.

Tips to improve your Apple Watch’s heart rate accuracy during exercise heart rate monitoring on Series 6

Surprisingly, a recent clinical study indicated that consumer-grade wearables like the Apple Watch were more accurate than research-grade wearables when a person is at rest. However, those same consumer wearables showed a higher error occurrence during activity and in particular, when responding to changes in a person’s activity.

Update your watchOS to its latest version

Each time Apple releases a software update, they include changes that improve your watch’s performance, including the way it receives and interprets data from its sensors. 

So, if you haven’t updated your watch in a while, now is a good time! Apple watch software update

Get good and consistent skin contact

Your watch’s sensors need direct skin contact to work. Verify that the watch is contacting the skin and place the watch above the wrist bone. It should be snug AND comfortable–you don’t want it too loose or too tight.

If you have any tattoos or large birthmarks, try placing your watch away from these areas. 

Wearing your watch on the inside of your wrist helps some people get better measurements. wear your Apple Watch on the inside of your wrist for more accurate heart rate monitoring

Watch out in cold temperatures

Colder temperatures decrease your body’s blood flow and can impact your watch’s heart rate sensor accuracy. If you exercise in the cold, the blood flow in your wrist might be too low for your watch’s heart rate sensor to get a reading.

You get more accurate readings when exercising in mild to warm temperatures.

If you exercise in cold environments, try wearing your watch higher up your arm and not exposed directly to the cold (worn beneath your clothing, jacket, or gloves.)

Keep your wrist and arm movements steady

When you move your arm, wrist, or hand irregularly, it can affect how the sensor reads your heart rate. The less you move your wrist, the more accurate the sensor is.

Several studies indicated that a smartwatch’s heart rate measurement is often less accurate during cyclic wrist motions. That’s why rhythmic workouts like running or cycling, often are more accurate in recording your heart rate than workouts with irregular movements like tennis or boxing.

If your workout type uses a lot of arm, wrist, or hand movements, tighten your watch’s band and make sure you place it above, not on, the wrist bone. 

Update your watch to a newer model

If you use a model that came out a few years ago (or more,) it may be time to upgrade.

With Apple continued research and development, newer Series watches (more recent release date) include updated sensors and technology that yields higher accuracy.

Recent studies demonstrate this too! The study “Investigating sources of inaccuracy in wearable optical heart rate sensorsdetermined:

We found that devices with higher cost, a more recent release date, and a larger market had higher accuracy.

Because of the limited scope of the devices used, we cannot tease apart the effects of each of these three factors.

While device release year is noted here, all devices used in this study had software updates as of the beginning of the study.

Thus, while hardware differences may exist, software is updated frequently on these devices to help prevent obsolescence in the older technologies.

Use a chest or arm strap instead POLAR H10 HEART RATE SENSOR

If you tried everything and you still can’t get consistent heart rate readings, consider connecting your Apple Watch wirelessly (via Bluetooth) to an external heart rate monitoring chest or arm strap. 

See this article for some of our top recommendations!

Final thoughts

I hope your watch is now tracking your heart rate! 

It’s always best to run a few tests to make sure, so wear your watch for a few days and nights and take a look at the Health app to see if the data is there. 

If everything looks good, don’t forget to turn on notifications for things like high heart rate! You can even set notifications for low heart rate or get irregular rhythm notifications (depending on local support for these features.)

If your watch continues to have problems getting your heart rate or the data it outputs doesn’t look right, contact Apple Support or visit a nearby Apple Store for further assistance.

And if you have a tip we didn’t cover, please consider letting us know in the comments so we can pay it forward and share it with our readers. 

I'm a content writer with a passion for all things lifestyle having earned my Bachelor of Science in journalism from St. John's University. I was born and raised in Southern California. My Apple Watch never leaves my wrist, but I also adore Fitbit. I love all things health tech, including fitness and self-care apps. When I'm not writing, I enjoy traveling, reading, and drinking iced coffee!

1 COMMENT

  1. For the past 10 months, my apple watch is very inconsistent in recording my heart rate during 5-mile runs.

    When I got the watch it would not read the first 15 minutes of my 45-minute run.

    The Apple store was not much help. After my second trip to the apple store, they gave me a new watch.

    I have covered most if not all the tips provided in the blog. Placing the watch tight high up on the wrist seems to be the most important tip.

    Over the last 10 months, the watch would stop tracking my heart rate for 5-15 minutes at various points during the run for 75% of my runs.

    Once in a while, it would track the whole run. At various points in many of the runs, the watch would show a spike in my heart rate from 130 to 160 BPM.

    I did a stress test yesterday. The watch did not perform well during the stress test.

    It tracked well in the beginning of the test at 80-90 bpm. Then stop tracking the heart rate. When I got up to 121 bpm the watch stared tracking again jumped to 145 bpm, then 152 bpm, and then stop tracking during the rest of the stress test which lasted 11 minutes.

    The highest heart rate recorded by the 12 lead chest monitor was 128 bpm.

    The stress test confirmed that the Apple watch is not always accurate and at times very inaccurate.

    Even more frustrating is how it stops recording the heart rate for 10-minute stretches during a 45-minute run.

    I have had issues with rapid heart rate and was concerned that the periods the watch stopped recording the heart rate were actually rapid heat beats.

    The stress test showed that the apple watch is very unreliable. At times it gives the impression that it is tracking the heart rate accurately but it is not to be trusted. The watch is frustrating and often inaccurate.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.