Apple has continually updated its Health app since it first debuted back in 2014. It now collects more pieces of data, works with more sources of data and even plays nice with the Apple Watch.
Think of the app as your health hub, and a one-stop place to view your health records. All your data comes together in one place, drawing from your phone, your watch, your fitness trackers, your sleep trackers and your fitness apps. The idea is to collect all this information and offer you a quick snapshot of what you’ve done so you don’t have to open up a bunch of different apps.
Read next: What your Apple Watch Activity Rings say about you
You don’t even need a wearable to use it, as it’ll suck data from your iPhone’s onboard motion sensors and GPS. From here, you’ll be able to see how many miles you walked, floors you climbed, steps you’ve counted and calories you’ve burned.
HealthKit, Apple’s API, allows third-party apps like Garmin Connect, Nike+ Run Club, MyFitnessPal, Strava and even Pokemon Go to contribute all kinds of metrics to Apple Health. This can be nutritional information, activity information, body temperature, blood pressure, glucose and much, much more.
And while it’s now a lot easier to use, there’s still a lot to sieve through. So, to help you out, we’ve put together a guide to help you get the most out of Apple’s Health app. Below, we’ll walk you through how to view your data, how to use Health if you wear an Apple Watch, how to sync your third-party apps and more.
Apple Health: How to view your data
The main dashboard for Apple Health is called Health Data and breaks down your health into four key areas: Activity, Mindfulness, Nutrition and Sleep. The benefit here is that it lets you dive right into the area you’re most interested in, so below we’ll break down exactly what you can expect once you do.
Each category also has a little video explaining what it’s about and why you should care. These are short videos that you probably won’t watch more than once, but they’re well made and offer a good job of trying to pique your interest.
And while the key areas are the four featured, they’re not the only areas of data you can view. Beneath these groups on the landing page is some secondary data, which includes your body measurements, vitals, health records, reproductive health, vitals and something called Results – we’ll come back to these later.
The Activity section within Health is perhaps the most data-rich of the four. Within it, you’ll find two mini-sections – one at the top detailing your day so far (how many flights of stairs you’ve climbed, steps taken – that kind of thing) and the other, below all that, giving you snapshots of your entire calendar year.
You’ll get a tile that shoots you straight into the the Activity app, if you’ve been tracking things from an Apple Watch, but the rest of your yearly data will be rounded up below into active energy, exercise minutes, resting energy, standing hours, wheelchair distance and workout minutes. There’s also more niche metrics, like cycling distance, swimming distance, swimming strokes, downhill snow sports distance, NikeFuel and pushes. Even Vo2 Max data can be pulled in from the likes of Garmin watches, though this isn’t something that Apple can natively track just yet, unfortunately.
Read this: Apple Activity and Workout guide
If the raw number you get on the tile isn’t enough for you, tapping through on each of these will give you a graph that pinpoints when you recorded the data (or you can tap on ‘Show All Data’ to see this in a list form). Which devices helped pull in this data is also available to view, as well as an option to toggle the unit of measurement.
If you’re active, and you have a lot of peripheral devices you’ve allowed to Apple Health to tap into, this will likely be where you spend most of your time in the app. It’s very straightforward, and a great way to spot trends over short and long periods of time.
The Apple Watch doesn’t include a sleep tracking feature yet (though it should be coming through the next generation), so, until then, you’ll have to find alternative ways to use Apple Health to track your sleep.
The simplest way is through your iPhone, and it actually offers built-in support for this. In your phone’s Clock app is a feature called Bedtime. You set your bedtime and then the phone will send you a notification when it’s time to go to sleep. You also set up a wake up time, and your phone will wake you up. If you pick up your phone, it’ll log that in as awake time.
Read this: Best Apple Watch sleep tracker apps
It’s very basic stuff, but, alternatively, you can wear an Apple Health-compatible fitness tracker, like the Huawei Band 2 Pro, to get some deeper sleep metrics into Apple Health. If you want to get a little more detailed, there are also devices like the Beddit 3 and Sleepscore Max sleep trackers.
There are also a number of good iPhone apps that can track your sleep, including Sleep Cycle, which relies on placing your iPhone under your pillow at night, or Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock, which listens to your snores to analyze your sleep. All this data feeds right into Health and into the Today and Health Data tabs.
It’s worth nothing that there that track sleep for the Watch, including Sleep++, but we’d recommend going for a more equipped sleep tracking device, if you can.
If you’ve been tracking your food, you’ll get a breakdown of your diet through Nutrition, and you’ll be able to see how much calcium, carbs, sugar, fibre, iron and more that you’ve ate.
You can then choose a singular category, like calcium, and see how much you’ve eaten that day, month and year. Apple also leverages the App Store to constantly recommend apps that may help you. On the calcium page, for instance, there’ll be recommendations for apps that are good at, well, tracking calcium.
Read this: Mike’s food tracking diary
Keeping tabs on everything we eat using mobile apps can be a real pain, and manually adding metrics like sodium intake using the Nutrition section of the Apple Health is even less appealing. However, if you use an app like Weight Watchers to record your food or UP Coffee to measure your caffeine intake, these apps can also send data back to Apple Health, if added as sources.
The foods you add will sync nutritional information, like protein, fat, carbs and sodium, as well as the less-mentioned categories, like potassium, magnesium, all the important vitamins and, erm, copper.
In comparison to the other three sections above, Apple Health’s home for Mindfulness is much less fleshed out, in terms of native support.The only tile available is for those tracking through the Apple Watch, with Mindful Minutes tracked in the same way as you’ll see through Activity and Sleep.
However, while there’s zero data captured through your phone or other wearables (again, like in other section of Apple Health), there are a number of third-party apps that you can download to help build out your mindfulness data. We expect more to come through iOS 12, and also through the Apple Watch Series 4, as this does appear to be an area that Apple is focused on improving.
How to use Health with an Apple Watch
While Apple Health can work autonomously for iPhone owners, that method relies on folks carrying around their iPhones every step of the way. If you leave it on a desk when you pop over to the restroom, it won’t count the steps you took, the distance you traveled or the flights you climbed. And if you didn’t track it, did you really do it?
When Health is synced up to a fitness tracker or smartwatch it gives you a much more comprehensive picture of your daytime (and in some cases, nighttime) activity. Thankfully, HealthKit allows Apple Health to suck in data from services like Garmin Connect, Wahoo Fitness, Mi Fit, and more. Once you opt into sharing your data with Apple Health, it’s all done automatically.
See also: The best Apple Watch apps
Having an Apple Watch does save you a step, however. All your data just funnels right into Apple Health (in addition to the Activity app, which you can use to close those rings). You can check out all the data directly from your Watch by heading over to the Sources menu at the bottom of the Health app.
Once in the Sources section of the app, scroll to the bottom – below the apps, we’ll get to those in a bit – and check out the devices feeding Health with information. Click on your Apple Watch and you’ll get a breakdown of all the information your smartwatch is feeding to Health.
You’ll be able to see your VO2 Max taken from your Apple Watch, your active energy, your resting energy, your stand hours, your resting heart rate, your walking heart rate average and your heart rate variability. Oh, and if you take on the Apple Watch’s breathing reminders, those will show up in the Mindfulness section of the app, like we discussed above.
These metrics are all more easily gleaned from the Health Data section of the app, but the Sources page is a good look at what exactly your Apple Watch brings to Apple Health.
Just keep in mind that, if you want third-party devices to feed data into Apple Health, you’ll need to enable it within those devices’ companion apps. There’s usually a prompt during device setup.
How to sync an app with Apple Health
If you’re using an app like Runtastic or Lifesum for years, you won’t need to stop. Health can pull in that data and integrate it into your overall health picture automatically (this includes historical data). However, just like the devices, you’ll need to make sure they’re talking to each other by allowing Apple Health access to your chosen apps.
The process differs for each app, but they usually ask straight-up when you’re setting them up. If you forgot or didn’t even think about using Apple Health before, the toggle should be buried in the app’s settings menu.
Once you have granted access, you can head to the Sources section of the Health app to see a list of which ones you’ve enabled access. If you choose an app source, you’ll be greeted with a bevy of options – you can customise what data you want to share with Apple Health, or you can toggle the entire service off. It all depends on how much you want to share.
In the specific app page in Health, there’s also a little Data menu near the bottom. If you click that, you’ll be whisked off to a screen that breaks down the data you’ve gained from that app. Here, you’ll be able to delete any data you believe to be erroneous.
More tech for a health kick
Apps that work with Apple Health
As mentioned before, there are a lot of apps that tap into the HealthKit API. You know how to get them talking, you know you can use them, but how the heck are you supposed to find the right apps to use?
Well, the easiest way is to just choose one of the four categories in Health Data and scroll down. You’ll see a list of recommended apps for each category. For Nutrition, recommendations include LifeSum, Yummly, Lose It! and more.
Edit your Apple Health data
Health Data is meant to offer a quick glimpse of all the information that’s most relevant to you without having to delve further into the app. But what if it’s missing some piece of data? What if you accidentally lost your Bluetooth connection or you forgot to add that chicken wing to your meal?
You can actually add (and delete) data from Health. Now, this stuff is pretty buried because the idea of Health is that it sucks in information on its own and automatically presents it to you in an easy-to-digest way, but it’s still possible. All you have to do is go to that data point.
For instance, if you wanted to add resting energy you’d have to click into Activity, then click Resting Energy then click the + sign in the top right corner. You’ll then be able to add your kcals alongside a time and date. It’s the same for Nutrition, Mindfulness or Sleep. You just go to the specific metric and tap the + button.
By the way, in each of the data points’ dedicated screens, there’s an “Add to Favorites” toggle. Click that and it’ll zoom up to the top of the category page it’s associated with. So if you generally track nutritional information but you’re looking to keep track of your protein, it’s up at the top for even easier access.
How to set up your Medical ID
Medical ID allows first responders to quickly get vital information about you right from your phone. It’s one of the four main options in the Health app, and when you’re adding your blood type, allergies, conditions, and more, there’ll be a toggle at the top to make it easy to access when your phone is locked.
Turning this on can be useful for emergency situations, so it’s a good idea to at least consider it. To view Medical ID, they’ll have to try to unlock your iPhone. Then they’ll have to click “Emergency” and then “Medical ID”.
You can also add emergency contacts, who will automatically receive a message when you use Emergency SOS. They’ll also receive your location so they know where you are.
You can activate Emergency SOS on your Apple Watch by pressing and holding the side button. A countdown will begin and emergency services will be contacted. On the iPhone, you hold down the side button and one volume button – a siren will alarm and a countdown will begin.
At the bottom of the Medical ID page, there’s an option to sign up as an organ donor with Donate Life America. Your information will go directly to Donate Life, not Apple. It’s something to think about.
How to view your health records
If used regularly, the Apple Health app can provide keen users with a huge array of quantifiable health data, hopefully leading to greater education, identification of trends, better choices and changes in lifestyle that can lead to longer and healthier lives. Or at least that’s the idea, anyway.
But it’s also going to be good news for our doctors, as this technology is starting to provide information they can use – and a way for us to store the information they give us.
Remember the Results section on the main Health Data page, which we mentioned earlier? This is where you can put in results from tests you’ve done with your doctor, like blood alcohol content, blood glucose, forced vital capacity and inhaler usage.
There’s also Health Records, which is Apple’s latest initiative to make it as easy as possible for you to have control over your health. If your insurer or hospital is signed up for Health Records, you’ll be able to see all your health records right here.
So all your procedures, vaccinations, lab results, medications and more will live right here. If you need to go to a new doctor for some treatment, you won’t have to wait for your old doctor to give you your health records – you now own them.
You’ll also be able to store medical records in the app on your own, if your medical expert shares them with you. You’ll just need to name sure they give you the Clinical Document Architecture files.
Back up your Apple Health data
It’s worth making sure you’ve got a backup of your Health data from time to time – just in case. To do this, tap on your profile icon which appears in the top right and then tap “Export Health Data”. It may take a few minutes, but it will give you a file that can be stored away should something terrible happen and you lose all of your precious recorded data.
Doing your bit with ResearchKit
Alongside Apple Health, there’s also ResearchKit, which enables Apple Health users to contribute their amassed data to for the purposes of medical research.
Researchers have sung the praises of ResearchKit, saying that it allows them to quickly and easily sign people up for studies, avoiding geographical limitations and finding those with rare diseases.
Read this: How ResearchKit is being used to study rare diseases
There are already apps available on the App Store allowing you to contribute to research that may help the fight against Parkinson’s, diabetes, asthma and even breast cancer.
Just search ResearchKit on the App Store to find them. Some apps are simply set up to gain consent for tests, in which researchers will send you kits to complete at home. Some will have you complete tasks, like tapping two buttons in quick order, while others will simply seek to collect your data from Health.
Initially, Apple was adamant that all data remained anonymous, however it’s since altered its stance and is now listed as a secondary researcher on a handful of apps. Researchers have called for more access to HealthKit data, largely so they can better understand how people’s health affects disease.
On a related note, while you can no longer sign up to participate in the Apple Heart Study, the results are set to be published in early 2019, as Apple looks to help identify atrial fibrillation through future devices.