It was long before the Apple Watch existed that I first slapped on a smarter wrist watch. As Garmin, Nike and Samsung were pushed aside for an Apple Watch- just one thing remianed. They have all pushed me to exercise better by keeping an eye on what I’m doing and giving me a kick when needed. Now that I’m using the third iteration of the Apple Watch, I really think it’s time for a rest.
By ‘gamifying’ activity Apple have found the market that really matters, getting more and more people moving inevitably leads to taking over the wearables market. By doing so they have also implemented one of the most dangerous and addictive trends in fitness - streaks. Despite its popularity, this highly addictive pursuit of keeping the streak going can get people into trouble very quickly.
There is even a United States Running Streak Association (USRSA), which tracks people that run at least a mile a day “without the aid of crutches or sticks”. Adam Alters book Irresistible recounts several people that have gone to obscene lengths to keep this streak going, it doesn’t take a genius to work out why this is actually pretty bad for your health. The fact that USRSA needs to state you can’t use any aids should be warning enough not to start!
Streaks uncover the major flaw with goal pursuit: you spend far more time pursuing the goal than you do enjoying the fruits of your success. - Irresistable, Adam Alter
The pursuit and desire to exercise should come from within and not to make sure the yellow and the red line make a circle. Enjoyment and forfillment are one of the most important aspects in exercise and help immensely with improving mental heath.
Continuous activity is all very well, as long as it is sensible, and all the checks and balances are in place. If you’re injured, sick or just have more important things to do should you really be pushed and prodded to exercise?
Dangers of the game
Well that depends how sick. According to study in British Journal of Sports Medicine you should be fine pushing to your goal if it’s just a runny nose. However anything else should be treated with a few days rest along with at least a doctors visit. So iOS really shouldn’t be pushing you to exercise when you’re in no fit state to do so.
However keeping that streak going can be addictive as scrolling through social media. A couple of notifications with ‘motivational’ prodding could see some people heading to the gym when they really should be heading to bed. Rest and recovery is as important as the exercise you are completing. Doing too much is a recognised condition, and Overtraining Syndrome (OTS) can lead to reduced immune system, physiological and mental health issues.
Hitting a move goal of a few hundred won’t lead to OTS, but the Apple Watch pushing you onto a higher and higher goal will. No one should be hitting their move goal everyday of the month. That is unless you are blazing past it 5 days out of 7 and just achieving it the other two. Unfortunately it seems Apple doesn’t want you to do that, achieve your move goal well and it will push you on to a higher and higher on. Whilst activity perusing a perfect month in September it pushed me from a 600 goal to one over 1000.
Rest Day Solution
If Apple want to do the best for their users, they must consider a rest day option in next years watchOS update. The option should exist for users to mark at least one day from 7 as a rest day and be pushed towards 1/2 of their usual tally.
This option is available already in a fashion, but is buried away behind a force press in the activity app. Users would be better served with the options being available from an Activity notification or clearly marked Rest Day. Doing so will enable those that have been pushed a little harder to achieve their move goal to get the rest they need, and also still allow those addicted to the game to keep the streak going.
There clearly needs to be limits set, there is no point users being able to mark every day as rest - however this could easily be linked to a set activity level or the move goal itself. Low (one rest day), High (two rest days) or any combination based on types of activity and stand hours.
Keeping people from sitting is vastly more important than provoking slightly more exercise. However sitting down and resting one day a week would be best for all of us.