How to Take a Sick Day with Your Apple Watch

Apple Watch Activity Competition Credit: Halfpoint / Shutterstock
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The Apple Watch is a great device for tracking your health and fitness goals, with Activity app features like closing rings each day, competing in challenges, monthly rewards, and trends, all of which really help to encourage a healthier lifestyle.

Unfortunately, while all of these features work great to get you up and moving on days that you may simply not feel like it, they can be frustrating when you find that you actually can’t be as active as you’d like, and legitimately want to take a sick day without the risk of messing up your trends by not closing your rings.

Let’s face it, a single off day can mess up your entire streak, which can actually discourage some users from continuing to pursue their fitness goals. Many have long suggested that Apple offer a feature where users could occasionally take a day off without messing with their overall trends, but right now if you fail to close even one of your rings on a given day, you’ll break your streak, which can be a bit disheartening.

Fortunately, there are some ways to deal with this, and while some may consider these to be “cheating” methods, most of them are valid aspects of how the Apple Watch is designed, and at the end of the day it’s really just a tool that helps you choose how to pursue your own fitness goals.

The Move Goal 🏃🏻‍♂️

The Apple Watch Move ring is the easiest one to deal with, since it’s based on the number of calories burned each day from any kind of movement. It doesn’t take too much to push this ring forward, and the goal itself is also really easy to adjust:

  1. Open the Activity app on your Apple Watch
  2. Press down firmly on your Activity rings
  3. Tap Change Move Goal
  4. Use either the +/- buttons or the Digital Crown to dial in a new number
  5. Tap Update

This goal can even be changed retroactively, so if you’re going to bed and find that you haven’t quite met your objective, you can simply lower the bar. Of course, the Activity and Health apps will record the actual calories burned, along with the new goal, but it will ensure that the ring still gets closed even when you have an “off” day.

The Exercise Goal 🏋️‍♂️

Unfortunately, the Exercise ring isn’t nearly as easy to deal with in this manner. Apple insists that you get 30 minutes of vigorous exercise every day. While even a brisk walk counts for this, if you’re stuck in bed sick all day, chances are that you’re not going to be able to achieve even this.

However, it turns out that Apple has some lighter-duty workouts that also legitimately count toward your exercise minutes, such as Mind & Body and Other. Since there are workouts where it’s virtually impossible for the Apple Watch to properly measure your movement and heart rate, your Apple Watch simply gives you the “credit equivalent of a brisk walk” if it can’t get sensor readings any other way. In fact, according to Apple, this applies to just about any workout found in the “Add Workout” section.

The Stand Goal 🧍‍♀️

There’s also no way to change your Stand goal, meaning you’ll still need to stand up for at least one minute for 12 hours each day, but unless you’re completely bedridden, this one isn’t too hard to achieve.

As a worst-case scenario, however, you can also trigger it simply by moving your arm rapidly while sitting or laying down, since the motion sensor is the only way to determine if you’re standing.

Does It Matter? 🤔

Closing your rings on a daily basis isn’t the only way that your Apple Watch tracks fitness, and while it may bother you to miss a day when you’ve got a 90-day or 365-day streak, having an off day doesn’t usually prevent you from meeting the goals of most monthly award challenges, since these are often cumulative figures, so you can easily make up the difference for these by working harder once you’re back in action.

At the end of the day, only you can decide how important it is that you close your rings each day, and what constitutes a valid way to go about it.

Certainly, lowering your move goal is the most legitimate way to deal with an off day if you still want to close that ring, since you’re basically acknowledging that you expect to have a lower activity level, but if your goal is to simply close all your rings each day to impress your friends or fool yourself into thinking you’re fit, well, as our teachers used to say, you’re really only hurting yourself.

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