You don’t need an Apple Watch to use Apple’s Fitness app anymore.
With iOS 16 and above, everyone with an iPhone can use the Fitness App to track their steps, distance, daily move goal, and calories and see their Movement Activity Ring–no paired Apple Watch or third-party app required!
With the Fitness app, iPhone users can also participate in challenges to earn badges and other awards, just like Apple Watch users, and even share their activities and accomplishments with friends and family.
And Apple is finally bringing its Fitness+ service to all iPhone users who don’t have Apple Watches (releasing later this year.) With just an iPhone, Fitness+ provides many of the same features as Apple Watch, including onscreen coaching, timers, and trainer callouts while also tracking your estimated Move ring progress.
Unfortunately, the iPhone-only Fitness app doesn’t always play nice, and you might find that it’s not closing those rings every day or adding up your steps, distance, or calories correctly (or at all.)
So if you’re having problems with this app, follow our step-by-step guide, and hopefully, we’ll figure it out. So let’s get started!
- How to count steps or distance with your iPhone when you don’t own an Apple Watch
- Apple Fitness+ subscription for iPhone vs Apple Watch: what’s different?
- How do I set device priority for calculating steps and other activity on iPhone and Apple Watch?
- How to add your vision prescription to your iPhone’s Apple Health app
- Apple Watch activity rings empty, blank, or not recording exercise minutes?
The iPhone’s Fitness app for folks that don’t own an Apple Watch
When you don’t own an Apple Watch, Apple’s Fitness app tracks your activity and fitness goals using the Health app and the phone’s motion sensors, including the accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, barometer, and GPS.
All of these sensors contribute to the Fitness app calculating your Movement Ring progress.
The Fitness app also supports many third‑party workout apps, such as Strava, to help close your Movement Ring.
And you can even display your Movement Ring’s daily progress on your lock and home screens using one of the Fitness app widgets–just like Apple Watch users.
What’s different about the Fitness app for iPhone only versus iPhone + Apple Watch?
In iOS 16+, the Fitness app for iPhone-only users is basically the same as the app for folks that pair an Apple Watch, with a few exceptions.
- The iPhone-only Fitness app offers basic fitness tracking and shows just your Movement Ring. It does not count your Stand or Exercise Rings. Your movement does count to challenges and awards!
- The app only counts a few types of exercise, such as walking, running, hiking, climbing, or workouts, also tracked in a third-party app. Bike rides are not automatically tracked, so you still need a third-party app!
- Third-party app workouts should show up in the Fitness app and help complete the red Move Ring as long as you connect those apps to Apple Health.
- The third-party app supports means that any workouts tracked with third-party devices, like Garmin watches and trackers, also appear in the Fitness app!
- When you use the Fitness app without an Apple Watch, it does not show a map of your activity.
- You also cannot currently add Apple Fitness+ to the Fitness app. This service is reserved for Apple Watch users only–but Apple just announced that Fitness+ is coming to all iPhone users later this year!!!
- You must set up the Fitness app first!
- Just tap open the Fitness app and follow the prompts.
- Make sure you choose a Daily Move Goal.
- For adults and children over 13, it’s the daily calories burned goal; for children under 13, it’s daily active minutes.
The key is to take your iPhone with you when you exercise!
Once you set up the Fitness app, you don’t have to do anything or use a third-party app (although you can.)
Just go, and the Fitness app (along with Apple’s Health app) tracks your progress.
You can open the Fitness app or the widget anytime to check out how close you reach your Move goal (calories burned) and see how many total steps and distance you’ve completed thus far.
Using the iPhone-only Fitness app when you have an Apple Watch
If you own an Apple Watch that’s paired to your iPhone and were hoping that you could now use the Fitness app to track walks, runs, and so forth for times when you don’t or can’t wear your watch, think again!
In our testing, when we left our watch at home, the Fitness app did not add our workouts to the Move Ring unless we used a third-party app to track that exercise.
So, our experience indicates that Apple does support people who want to seamlessly switch the Fitness app from tracking workouts using the watch to tracking exercise using the phone.
For example, I left my watch on its charger at home and took my iPhone instead for a walk. I assumed the Fitness app would switch to tracking my walk on my iPhone and show those steps and calories in the Move Ring.
But it was a no-go. While the walk’s steps and distance showed up in the Health app, they didn’t show up in the Fitness app or fill the Move Ring at all!
But, when I repeated the walk and recorded it using Strava on my iPhone, that walk DID show up in the Move Ring (and the Exercise Ring as well.)
Exercised, and your iPhone’s Fitness app doesn’t show anything and isn’t closing the Movement Ring?
If you set up the Fitness app but aren’t seeing your Movement Ring close and not showing any calories burned, follow these troubleshooting steps below.
Before you start troubleshooting, we recommend restarting your iPhone–this often fixes these types of problems since it clears out the cache and other temporary files and forces apps to refresh.
Verify you added your age, gender, height, and weight
- Open the Fitness app or Health app on your iPhone and choose the Summary tab at the bottom.
- Tap the profile picture or icon at the top.
- Select Health Details.
- Review, edit, or add your birthdate, gender, height, and weight. Fill out all these details.
- If you use any third-party fitness app, check your profile settings and make sure these apps also have your age, gender, height, and weight information.
- Although this information is supposed to share from Apple Health to the third-party app, it often doesn’t. So add it to your third-party app profile.
Check your iPhone’s Privacy and Location settings
- Go to Settings > Privacy & Security. Scroll down and tap Motion & Fitness.
- Turn on Fitness Tracking or toggle it off and on. Then underneath, toggle on the Health app and any third-party fitness apps you use to track your workouts.
- You won’t see the Fitness app listed separately–it uses the data from the Health app.
- Return to Settings > Privacy & Security and choose Location Services.
- Scroll down and tap System Services.
- Toggle on Motion Calibration & Distance and Compass Calibration.
- Go back to Location Services and check that any third-party fitness apps have location access, and you set it to While Using the App or Always. Additionally, toggle on Precise Location.
Turn on Background App Refresh
- Go to Settings > General and tap Background App Refresh.
- Choose Wi-Fi & Cellular Data.
- In the list of apps, toggle on any fitness apps you use to track your exercise.
Check your Apple ID for any previously paired Apple Watches
If you paired an Apple Watch to an iPhone in the past using your current Apple ID, that watch might still be associated with your Apple ID.
You want to unpair that watch and remove it from your Apple ID.
Even if you no longer have that Apple Watch, you still want to remove it. So let’s check.
- On a computer, go to Find My iPhone on iCloud.com and sign in with your Apple ID.
- At the top, choose All Devices, then look for any Apple Watch under My Devices.
- If you see an Apple Watch that you no longer use or own, tap it.
- Choose Erase Apple Watch. Tap Next and wait for Apple to erase the watch.
- To remove it from your list of devices, tap the X button next to your Apple Watch.
- Once you remove the watch, delete the Fitness app and the Watch app on your iPhone.
- Restart your phone.
- Open the App Store and reinstall the Apple Fitness app.
We found that if an Apple Watch is associated with your Apple ID, the Fitness app does not track activity and calories from the iPhone alone (when not wearing the watch.)
For example, I went for a walk with my iPhone in my pocket but left my watch on its charger at home. When I finished the walk, the Fitness app did not change the calorie count in the Move Ring.
Still not getting any credit towards your Fitness app’s Move Ring?
- On your iPhone, go to Settings > Privacy > Motion & Fitness.
- Turn the toggle for Fitness Tracking off.
- Restart your iPhone.
- Return to these same settings and toggle Fitness Tracking back on.
- Make sure you also toggle on all fitness apps, including the Health app and any third-party apps you use.
Try a third-party app
If you tried all the steps above and the Fitness app still isn’t working for you, try using a third-party app and see if it collects your fitness data and sends it to the Fitness app.
To get your data from the third-party app into Apple’s Fitness app, you first need to connect that app to Apple’s Health app. Then, Apple pipes the information collected in the Health app to the Fitness app.
Currently, there is no direct connection between third-party apps and the Fitness app–they all connect via the Health app.
You always connect to Apple Health via the third-party app. Unfortunately, how you do this is different for every app, but it almost always follows these steps.
- Open the third-party app.
- For example, let’s open Strava.
- Go to your Profile or the app’s Settings.
- In Strava, you tap the Settings icon (gear.)
- Locate and choose the settings category for data sharing, services, or applications/apps.
- Find the option to Connect to Apple Health.
- For Strava, select Applications, Services, and Devices and tap the option to Connect with Heath.
- Agree to the data sharing options and choose which data you want to grant read and write permissions or choose to Turn On All to grant the app and Apple Health access to all data points.
Once you set this up, you can modify the app’s Health app data access inside the Apple Health app via Health app > Summary > tap your top profile picture or icon > Privacy > Apps. Choose the app to modify its access.
Does the iOS Fitness app still show three activity rings?
If you once had an Apple Watch, you might see all three activity rings (red, light green, and blue) when you open the Fitness app (even when you do not currently pair to an Apple Watch.)
That’s because the Health app stores a history of your Apple Watch activity data for all three rings (Move, Exercise, and Stand.)
If you only want to see the Move Ring, unpair and delete any Apple Watch, that’s listed under your Apple ID and delete the Watch app from your iPhone.
You may also need to delete that old Apple Watch’s data from the Health app.
How to remove health and activity data from an old Apple Watch
Apple lets you decide which data you want to erase or offers a way to erase all the health data from an individual device.
If you sync the Health app to iCloud, deleting Health data from your iPhone also deletes it from iCloud.
To keep a copy of this data, either turn off the iCloud Health app syncing before you start deleting the date OR make an encrypted backup of your iPhone using Finder or iTunes on your computer (it must be encrypted to include Health app data.)
- Open the Settings app and choose the Health app.
- Scroll down to Data and tap Data Access & Devices.
- Scroll down past the Apps section to the Devices section.
- You might see a lot of entries, depending on how many different devices you’ve associated with your Apple ID over time.
- Tap on a listed Apple Watch.
- To delete all the data from this watch, scroll down and tap Delete All Data from (device’s name) and confirm. This is the preferred way to delete data quickly.
- To delete selected data from this watch, tap each category to see its data. This process takes a lot of time, so we don’t recommend it.
- Choose the Edit button and tap Delete All. Confirm you want to remove all the data.
- Or tap the red minus button and select the individual data points you want to remove.
- Go category by category and delete any data you no longer want.
- Repeat for all listed Apple Watches.
Hopefully, your iPhone’s Fitness app is now tracking your activity and updating the Move Ring throughout the day.
We love that Apple now offers its Fitness app to non-Apple Watch users and that it supports many third-party apps (and other fitness tracking devices.)
We would love to see Apple offer workout tracking within the Fitness app so users can map their routes, just like the Apple Watch Workouts app or most third-party apps.