Image source: Apple

Apple watchOS 11 levels up fitness tracking, health insights & more

Apple today announced watchOS 11. The software update is packed with innovative features and refinements, such as a Training Load metric, Vitals app, enahanced workout tracking and more.

Training Load metric

One of the highlights of watchOS 11 is the introduction of Training Load. This feature measures the intensity and duration of your workouts, assigning a rating from 1 (easy) to 10 (all out). Or you can assign a rating yourself.

By combining this with your heart rate, pace, age, and weight data, Training Load provides a comprehensive picture of your fitness level. Post-workout summaries offer insights into whether you’re training above or below your average intensity.

The feature is long overdue. It makes the Apple Watch more of a competitor to the likes of Garmin. The metric lets you pace your efforts day by day so that you stay within a range that will not risk over exhertion and injury.

However, it’s worth noting that Apple hasn’t confirmed whether Training Load will be compatible with workouts tracked in third-party apps. This is a concern for users who prefer apps like WorkOutDoors.

Training Load

Vitals App: Comprehensive health insights

Apple watchOS 11 also introduces something called the Vitals app. The app synthesizes information collected overnight, including heart rate, wrist temperature, and respiration, to provide a holistic view of your well-being. This feature is reminiscent of the health tracking features found in the Whoop fitness tracker. A bit like a “recovery score” but with more of a health aspect to it.

The Apple data is also combined with information from the Apple Heart and Movement study to track changes over time and alert you when any readings deviate from your normal range. This could be because you picked up an illness, or it might simply be due to a late evening out.

Apple says the new app seamlessly integrates with the good old Health app, enhancing its functionality by providing detailed insights and warnings about your physiological state.

Apple recovery

Enhanced workout tracking and Activity Rings

The Workout app receives several upgrades, including a Check In button to notify friends and family during runs and Live Activities. The duo provides an added layer of safety. This is especially useful for those that like to exercise late at night or at out-of-the-way areas.

The update also introduces support for downloadable topographic maps with turn-by-turn directions for hikers, a feature limited to “all 63 U.S. national parks” at launch. Hopefully, Apple will expand this functionality to include user-created routes and offline maps in the future.

The Activity app also sees significant improvements. You can now pause your Activity Rings when you’re feeling under the weather, set different exercise goals for different days of the week, and designate rest days without impacting your streak. Additionally, the summary screen in the Fitness app on iPhone is customizable, allowing users to tailor the display to their preferences.

Pause Activity rings

Cycle tracking for expectant mothers

The Cycle Tracking app now includes features specifically for pregnant women, tracking changes in heart rate and providing a timeline of gestational age. It also offers walking stability alerts during the third trimester and reminders for monthly mental health assessments, offering support throughout the pregnancy journey.

Vitals app

Smarter watch faces and widgets with machine learning

The Photos watch face now leverages machine learning to curate the best photos of your friends and family for your watch face, automatically cropping and framing them for optimal display. The Smart Stack is updated to include time-sensitive widgets like precipitation alerts, a translate widget for travelers, and Live Activities for real-time updates. Third-party developers now have access to the Smart Stack, expanding the possibilities for app integration.

Additional features and device compatibility

Other notable additions include a Translate app for 20 languages, new workout maps for rowing that include distance and route mapping, and custom workouts for pool swims, catering to a broader range of activities.

watchOS 11 supports the Apple Watch Series 6 and newer models, discontinuing support for older devices. If you are interested in installing and early Beta, the instructions can be found on this link. Like ever year, the public version should roll out to everyone in September.

A worthy upgrade this time around

watchOS 11 represents a bigger upgrade for the Apple Watch, than some of the updates we saw in recent years. The Training Load, Vitals app, enhanced Activity Rings, and expanded Cycle Tracking features offer valuable insights and motivation.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

There is room for improvement in areas like navigation, particularly for those who want to create their own routes, and third-party app integration. Regardless, watchOS 11 undoubtedly makes the Apple Watch more of a competitor to the likes of Garmin and Whoop.

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Marko Maslakovic

Marko founded Gadgets & Wearables in 2014, having worked for more than 15 years in the City of London’s financial district. Since then, he has led the company’s charge to become a leading information source on health and fitness gadgets and wearables.

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