Activity by circle

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A photo posted by Gordon McLean (@gmclean) on

There is no doubt that since getting my Apple Watch the three little coloured circles that appear on my watch face have helped me realise just how little I used to move. Since then, and admittedly with a change of job and a more ‘walking’ based commute, I’ve been noticeably more mobile, but what has struck me is how effective this simple little case of gamification has been.

The Activity circles on the Apple Watch cover three categories, Move, Exercise, and Stand.

The Move category (the red circle) is a weekly target based on estimated calories burned every day. It’s the only one that is easily adjusted and each week you’ll get a new suggested target (so the more you Move, the higher the target the following week).

The Exercise category (the green circle) uses your heart rate, and anything above ‘resting’ is classed as Exercise. You can also track specific activities like walking, cycling and running, which all add to the green circle.

And the Stand category (the light blue circle) tracks how active you are within a given hour. If you’ve been stationary for 50 mins, you get a prompt to stand and move around. To close this circle you need to ‘stand’ 12 times a day.

At the end of an average day I’ve usually closed the green Exercise circle, am close to closing the red Activity circle, and depending on my day have 2 or 3 ‘stands’ left to close the light blue Stand circle. Some days by the time I get home, all three are closed.

It’s a simple enough way to break things down and it’s definitely made me more aware and found me pondering getting off the bus early to help ‘close a circle’, and once you are in that mindset you quickly start to consider ‘streaks’, how long can I manage completing every circle every day? (the image at the top of this post was an award badge for closing every circle for 7 days in January, an extra New Year boost).

I’m quite comfortable getting gamed like this, it fits my goal driven approach and as I’m letting my watch take care of the ‘basics’ it’s one less things to think about so I’m turning my attention to other things I can do to try and incorporate more exercise into my day.

I am not for a minute suggesting that you buy an Apple Watch solely to make use of this single feature – and it’s worth noting that there is a specific exercise app for tracking runs/walks which I’ve used a few times – but alongside the ability to triage incoming emails, tweets and messages, and get discrete notifications from a variety of apps, it has fast become my main reason for wearing the watch every day.

And this is especially true of my lazier days. Just this past weekend I almost didn’t wear it on Sunday as I was pretty hungover and tired and didn’t really want to interact with the world but I put it on, went about my day, and by 8pm realised I was on track to complete the circles, all I need to do was 20 minutes of exercise.

20 minutes later the circles were complete, as was my first perfect week of the year. Next target, a perfect January!