Use Apple's Health app to get fit and healthy

The Apple Watch is coming soon, and Apple is hoping that it will kickstart a whole new generation of health and fitness apps. The Health app that is already included in iOS 8 is a key part of Apple’s plans for the Watch. As well as recording your movement and activity patterns, the Health app can act as a central database that draws in data collected by a wide range of third-party apps and devices. So here’s our guide on how to use Health to take control of your health and fitness habits.

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  • Dashboard Dashboard
  • Data Delving Data Delving
  • Other Apps Other Apps
  • Sharing data Sharing data
  • Health Data Health Data
  • The Go Between The Go-Between
  • Medical ID Medical ID
  • More stories
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Dashboard

The Health app has four key features that you will see listed in the toolbar running across the bottom of the screen. The first is the Dashboard, which displays graphs of the main sets of information that you have collected.

Fortunately, you don’t need to own the Apple Watch or any other third-party apps or fitness bands to see how the Dashboard works. The Health App can work on its own and use the motion-sensor that is built into your iPhone to collect information even when you’re just walking along the road with the iPhone in your pocket (iPads don’t have this motion-sensor, so the Health app can’t be used with an iPad). Read our Apple Watch hands on review

By default, the Health app displays three graphs, showing the number of normal walking steps you take each day, as well as the total distance covered by both running and walking. It even calculates the flights of steps that you’ve climbed, as that’s good exercise too. You can also view this information as a daily, weekly, monthly or annual graph, giving you an idea of how your pattern of exercise has changed (or not) over a period of time.

Read: Apple's Health app in iOS 8

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Next Prev Dashboard

The Health app has four key features that you will see listed in the toolbar running across the bottom of the screen. The first is the Dashboard, which displays graphs of the main sets of information that you have collected.

Fortunately, you don’t need to own the Apple Watch or any other third-party apps or fitness bands to see how the Dashboard works. The Health App can work on its own and use the motion-sensor that is built into your iPhone to collect information even when you’re just walking along the road with the iPhone in your pocket (iPads don’t have this motion-sensor, so the Health app can’t be used with an iPad). Read our Apple Watch hands on review

By default, the Health app displays three graphs, showing the number of normal walking steps you take each day, as well as the total distance covered by both running and walking. It even calculates the flights of steps that you’ve climbed, as that’s good exercise too. You can also view this information as a daily, weekly, monthly or annual graph, giving you an idea of how your pattern of exercise has changed (or not) over a period of time.

Read: Apple's Health app in iOS 8

 

Step 2 of 7: Data Delving

Tap on any of these graphs and you’ll see some additional options for displaying and sharing this information. If your main exercise is running or swimming then you probably don’t need to see this Steps graph, so you can just remove it from the Dashboard altogether. 

Alternatively, you can select ‘show all data’, which tells Health to dig through its memory and show all the information it has stored on that particular activity going back as far as it can. You can also add your own ‘data points’, adding in information that the iPhone may not have recorded – such as a lunchtime stroll while you leave your iPhone charging back in the office.

So far, though, we’ve only seen data that is collected by the Health app itself. The real power of the Health app lies in its ability to share data with other apps.

 

Step 3 of 7: Other Apps

Let’s tap on the ‘Sources’ icon at the bottom of the screen. This shows the third-party health and fitness apps that I have installed on my iPhone.

The Human and Running apps are basically exercise trackers, which monitor your movement and other activities, while Lifesum is a kind of food diary for planning meals and monitoring your calorie intake.

There’s also iHealth, which can be used in conjunction with other devices, such as a blood-sugar monitor, to record important medical data. All these apps can share their data with Health, so that you can view the most important data on the Dashboard.

Read: Best Health apps for iPhone

 

Step 4 of 7: Sharing data

Tap on any of these third-party apps and you’ll see a list of all the different types of information that each app can store, and which can be shared with your Health app.

The Lifesum app primarily focuses on dietary information, so the list of information that it records includes details such as your body-mass index (BMI), your daily calorie intake, and even quantities of specific food types such as fats and sugars. Each individual data item has a switch that allows Lifesum to send – or ‘write’ – that information into Health, so you can tell it to ignore potassium intake and just focus on sugar and fat.

And, of course, other apps can record different types of data. The Nike Running app can monitor your heart rate during exercise, while iHealth can monitor blood pressure and sleeping patterns.

In the US it’s already possible for some people to share information with their doctor or hospital - but it might be a while before those of us in the UK can send health data to our local NHS doctor.

 

Step 5 of 7: Health Data

All the data collected by Health and other apps can be displayed on the Dashboard, but then the Dashboard will quickly become cluttered and confusing, so we need a way to organise all the data that is being fed into Health.

Tap on the Health Data icon in the toolbar at the bottom of the screen and you’ll see a list of all the different types of data that you can view.

To help keep things simple, the Health app automatically sorts your data into a few main categories.The Body Measurement category includes basic information such as your weight and BMI, while the Nutrition category goes into great detail about your diet, including details such as cholesterol levels and even levels of calcium, copper and other minerals.

There are also categories for monitoring sleep patterns, and even detailed medical tests such as blood alcohol and lung capacity during exercise.

 

Step 6 of 7: The Go-Between

Tap on any of these items and you’ll see the graph of the data that your apps have collected. You can specify which graphs are shown on the Dashboard, and you can also add data manually if you want to monitor details such as your daily caffeine consumption.

As well as gathering information from your third-party apps, the Health app can also act as a go-between for sharing data between apps. You could, for instance, tell Health to draw in your workout data from the Nike Running app and then send that data to Lifesum so that you can see whether or not you’ve run far enough to make up for the jam doughnut you had at lunchtime.

 

Step 7 of 7: Medical ID

The final feature of the Health app could, quite literally, be a lifesaver. In case of emergency you can create a ‘Medical ID’ that displays key medical data on the lock screen of your iPhone. The Medical ID can tell people that you’re diabetic, or allergic to penicillin.

It can include details such as your blood group and whether you’re an organ donor. There’s also an option to add an emergency contact so that your next of kin can be informed if you’re taken ill while away from home.

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