New health and fitness features in watchOS 8 and iOS 15 show Apple’s commitment to health

Apple health and fitness offerings in iOS 15 and watchOS 8

watchOS 8‌ and iOS 15 make Apple health features more powerful and more personal than ever before—with new ways to discover health trends, understand lab reports, share health data with your physician, keep track of your family’s health, and new workout types. 

The impetus that Apple puts on the health and fitness features via its platform ecosystem is even more evident with the introduction of watchOS 8 and iOS 15.

The journey that started with merely counting steps and showing a heart rate on the watch evolved into ECG and arrhythmia detection, fitness insights via Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and Cardio Fitness Levels (VO2 max), hearing health, cycle monitoring and Sleep monitoring. 

With iOS 15 and watchOS 8, Apple has expanded on its health offerings by making health more insightful via trends, added new workouts, redesigned the Breathe app, expanded Apple’s mobility metrics and much more.iOS 15 Apple health features

Here are the main health and fitness offerings coming via watchOS 8 and iOS 15

  1. Apple expands on Mobility by introducing a walking steadiness feature in order to mitigate fall risk.walking steadiness score on Apple Health Mobility
  2. New movement exercises designed to improve balance and strength will help in mitigating fall risks and these are available within the Health app
  3. watchOS brings re-designed Breathe app with new animations and better features
  4. A New Mindfulness app to help calm your emotions and manage stress levels
  5. Respiratory Rate metrics and notifications expanded. Apple will automatically send you a notification if your respiratory rate reaches a threshold.
  6. Apple has added Trends for the key health metrics in the new Health app. This is super helpful if you manage your cholesterol readings and BP readings within Apple Health.Apple Health Trends notification
  7. Family Health data sharing. This new Apple Health feature will now let you view your elder parents health data, set up alerts, and more to keep a watchful eye on the health of your family membersFamily Health Sharing Apple Health
  8. New activities for Taichi and Pilates 
  9. Fitness+ is introducing a new set of workouts
  10. Ability to share health data securely with your physician straight from your Apple device is huge and will be offered by some of these health providers.Apple Health records sharing with physicians
  11. A new Conversation boost feature on AirPods will help people with hearing challenges 
  12. Focus: Apple introduced a new concept called ‘Focus’ that will help you better manage your work/ life balance with the help of intelligent notifications. You can now set up custom profiles for notifications when you are sleeping. You can set up fitness notifications to pop up when you are at the gym (location-based notifications).
     
Apple’s new Walking Steadiness uses custom algorithms to assess balance, stability, and coordination through built-in motion sensors on iPhone. This first-of-its-kind metric was established using real-world data from the Apple Heart and Movement Study, with more than 100,000 participants across all ages — the largest data set ever used to study fall risk.
 
In addition to alerting users of possible fall risk, Walking Steadiness helps users meet their stability goals. Users can choose to receive a notification when their score is Low or Very Low, and be directed to curated visual exercises that are based on clinically validated methods to increase strength and balance.
 

A brief walk down the memory lanes of watchOS helps us understand how far and how quickly we have come to a point where managing one’s Holistic health via the iPhone and Apple Watch has become so effortless for most users.

Related Reading:

A Timeline of Apple’s Health and Fitness Key Offerings

Apple health and fitness offerings in iOS 15 and watchOS 8

watchOS 5, introduced in 2018 marked the real start of the health and fitness era for the Apple Watch. It was the end of 2018 when Apple released the ECG and Afib detection following FDA approval of the features. Apple was the first consumer wearable company to incorporate a FDA-approved ECG and Afib feature. This feature has saved countless lives over the last three years.Apple watch series 4 introduced ECG

The new electrodes introduced with Apple Watch Series 4 played a major role in supporting the ECG functionality. These new electrodes built into the back crystal and Digital Crown on Apple Watch Series 4 worked together with the ECG app enabling customers to take an ECG similar to a single-lead reading. 

Beyond the headlines around ECG, Apple watchOS 5 also introduced a novel motion-sensing algorithm based feature called “Fall Detection”. This was the first time that if your Apple Watch detected a fall, it could immediately call emergency services if the wearer didn’t dismiss the call within five seconds.Apple Watch Fall Detection

Although Google showcased some impressive motion sensing algorithm based features with Android Wear 2.0 in May 2016, years before watchOS 5, wear OS has not offered any true fall detection feature so far. The Android Wear 2.0 could enable your Android smartwatch to automatically recognize exercise, count reps for your weight exercises and more but it never introduced any fall detection features. The same is true for Fitbit, although Fitbit users could take advantage of a third-party service like “Better Alerts” to get fall detection and emergency services features.

watchOS 6 showcased in June of 2019 pushed Apple’s health and fitness offerings further along the maturity curve. This was the operating system that offered cycle tracking on the watch. Apple was little slow with this. Fitbit’s Versa announced in March 2018 released Cycle tracking features with a major focus on women’s health. Nevertheless, Apple’s watchOS 6 introduced hearing health focused Noise App. 

The watch could now send a notification if the decibel level reached 90 decibels. watchOS 6 also introduced the concept of Activity Trends that allowed users to make more sense of their fitness and follow some of the coaching that the app incorporated.

The watchOS 6 was also been championed with better Gymkit features and Apple integrated equipment from manufacturers such as Octane Fitness, True Fitness and Woodway.

watchOS 7, introduced in June 2020 focussed primarily on integrating Sleep monitoring features. New concepts like Sleep mode, Bedtime mode, wind down along with the ability to set Sleep goals and monitor them were important additions to Apple Watch.Apple Watch Sleep Monitoring

Apple was also the first company to understand the urgency of the pandemic and offer a novel feature called Handwashing with watchOS 7. This was truly an awe-inspiring feature given the time when it was released.

Mobility Metrics introduced with iOS 14 and watch OS 7 have huge potential in healthcare. 

During this time, Apple introduced the Apple Watch Series 6. This was the first Apple Watch to feature Blood Oxygen level (Spo2) tracking and it was a timely introduction as people all over the world were facing major respiratory issues as a result of the COVID infection.

watchOS 7 also expanded on features around hearing health by providing users the ability to set maximum volume levels on their headphones.

In the area of Fitness, Apple not only introduced a variety of new workouts with watchOS 7, but it also incorporated cycling maps for the Apple Watch that showed users bike-friendly routes. The Fitness app also introduced new ways in which you could challenge yourself by setting up and sharing activity competitions. The update introduced the Fitness app where users could see all their activity, workouts, awards, and trends in one single place and with a tap access their Fitness+ workouts.

This notion of first-person health is gaining significant traction and one can witness this with the various health and fitness offerings that were released by Apple via watchOS 8 and iOS 15.

We can also expect new details coming to watchOS 8 by the time Apple readies the release of the Apple Watch Series 7 in the fall of this year.

If you have been waiting to make a decision around purchasing a smartwatch in order to monitor your health and manage your holistic fitness, the watchOS 8 unveiled today gives adequate reasons to consider updating to Apple Watch Series 7.

I am a technologist with years of experience with Apple and wearOS products and have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. In my day job, I advise fortune 500 companies with their digital transformation strategies and also consult with numerous digital health startups in an advisory capacity. I'm VERY interested in exploring the digital health&fitness-tech evolution and keep a close eye on patents, FDA approvals, strategic partnerships and developments happening in the wearables and digital health sector. When I'm not writing or presenting, I run with my Apple Watch or Fossil Gen 5 LTE and keep a close eye on my HRV and other recovery metrics.

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