You know I’m a fan of the Apple Watch activity app because it motivates me to burn calories so I can eat and drink more. We’ve heard from many others who got much healthier because they had real metrics to work with unlike ever before.
With watchOS 5, Apple stepped up the game on getting us to be more healthy. They’ve instituted something they call Activity Competitions. In the past, sharing data with friends hasn’t been that interesting, mostly because peoples’ goals are so different it’s really hard to compare and compete.
To have an effective competition, I think you really want to compete with someone who is close in goals to you. I’m not taking on Bart, who burns around 1800 calories a day, right? Turns out my good friend Pat Dengler has a calorie burn goal very close to mine and yet blows through her goal pretty often. Pat’s goal is 680 calories and mine is 660. I really should up mine by 20 calories, can’t have her ahead of me.
The new competitions work in an interesting way and the math is not at all obvious. By not obvious, I mean I had to create a spreadsheet and work together with Pat to figure it out. I sure hope I can explain it too!
Apple explains how to start a competition in a knowledge base article at support.apple.com/…. They explain first how to add a friend to Sharing, and then how to challenge that friend. Basically you tap on their name in the Sharing section of the Activity app on either the watch or the phone and then tap Compete. The other person then has to accept the challenge.
I’d like to start by quoting directly from Apple on how the competition points are calculated, and then I’ll go through my understanding of what they mean. They say,
During the competition, you both earn points by filling your Activity rings. You get a point for every percent that you add to your rings each day, and you can earn up to 600 points a day. That’s a max of 4,200 points for the week.
That sounds simple enough, right? But exactly how is that calculated? And more importantly, are there strategies you can employ to win?
The most obvious strategy to win a contest is to lower your goal, but both Pat and I are far too honest, and would totally catch each other if one of us tried that kind of sneaky maneuver. Let’s assume you’re not a cheater either, and see if we can find another method to increase your chance of winning.
To find the competition on the Phone, open the Activity app, then tap on Sharing and you’ll see all of your competitions at the top. When you tap into the competition you want to view, you’ll see a whole bunch of fun metrics and graphs.
Pat and I started a competition on Monday October 13th. The competition starts the next day so our competition went from Tuesday through Monday.
The Activity app on the phone (and actually on the watch) will show you the progress of the competition. You get some nice bar graphs showing your points and your partner’s points. They have the values on the graph too.
Now let’s talk about the numbers. The first day, I got 546 points and she got 411, the second day we both did better at 578 and 516. But Thursday and Friday we both got 600 points. I’m not going to read off all the points, but we both got to wondering how those points were calculated. How did I get 546 points and she got 411 on day one?
To repeat the quote from Apple, “You get a point for every percent that you add to your rings each day, and you can earn up to 600 points a day.” Right. Let’s see if I can explain this. Let’s take that first day. I got 546 points. My calorie burn was 919, I stood 16 times and I exercised 82 minutes. How does 919, 16 and 82 turn into a total of 546 points?
It’s all about the percent of goal on each ring. Let’s walk through each ring and then talk about how to balance these points to increase your chances of winning a challenge.
Calorie points are the hardest one to follow but the one we look at the most so I’ll start there. My goal was 660 calories. If I burned exactly 660 calories for the day, that’s 100% of goal which is 100 points. I burned 919 calories that day. 919/660 = 139%, or 139 points.
Stand points are easier, because the Apple Watch gives everyone the exact same goal: stand 12 times in every 24 hour day. So if you stand 12 times in a day, that’s 12/12 which is 100% or 100 points. The first day of the competition I stood 16 times (which is unusually high for me) so I got 16/12 = 133% or 133 points for standing.
Exercise is another one where everyone has the same goal. We all have to do 30 min of exercise a day. One more time, if we do 30 minutes, 30/30 = 100% or 100 points. I exercised 82 minutes, so 82/30 = 273% = 273 points.
To get the grand total points, we add up the Calorie points of 139, Stand of 133 and Exercise of 273 = 546 total points. If anyone is actually counting along, the numbers I just rattled off add to 545, but without the roundoff error it’s really 546.
Easy peasy, right? But wait, what about that 600 thing, how does that fit in?
Limit of 600
Let’s use Pat’s stats for Saturday. She burned 1147 out of 680 calories = 169% or 169 points. (Told you she’s a beast!) She stood 14 of 12 times, or 117% of goal for 117 points. She exercised 111 min out of 30 min or 370% of goal, for another 370 points. That adds to 655 total points. But they don’t let you get any more than 600 points so she was capped at 600.
If you balanced your work between the three types of ring to get all 600 points, you’d have to get double your move goal in active calories, you’d have to stand 24 hours in a day and you’d have to exercise 60 minutes a day. Using math I can show you the best way to get your points.
How to Win
I promised at the outset that I’d help you win these competitions. When Pat first challenged me, I said it was no fair because she picked the week we had our grandson Forbes with us. I knew it would be much harder for me to get a hard workout done in the mornings and it would be nearly impossible to get out of the house for my long walk with Tesla in the afternoon.
But it turned out to be the perfect week to be challenged. With me running around after Forbes all day long, I didn’t have long stretches of time sitting at my desk writing (remember we had a short show?) I was standing way way way more than I normally do. The stand goal of 12 is the hardest one for me to achieve. Instead of hitting 12 a day, I had all 15, 16 and 17 stand days.
Let’s see why that matters. 1 stand is worth 1/12 = 8% or 8 points. To get 8 points in burned calories, I’d have to burn 8% of 660 = 53 calories. That’s about three quarters of a mile walking at a reasonably quick pace for me, say around 20 minutes of time. So I can stand up for 2 minutes every hour, or walk for 20 minutes. Which sounds easier to you?
The exercise points are pretty easy too in comparison. To get 8 points of exercise you only have to exercise 8% of 30 min or 2.4 minutes! So walk really fast for a couple of minutes and you get 8 points of stand AND 8 points of exercise! See how easy it is as long as you know the math?
As I mentioned, getting double your stand goal isn’t really achievable but make sure you stand every single hour you’re awake and put your watch on first thing and take it off last thing at night. Then I’d concentrate on the exercise minutes to get the next easiest points. Again, combining exercise with stand credit can really get your points up. Finally you will have to burn calories to win if your challenger is as strong as Pat. I use the Apple Watch to measure how many calories each type of exercise burns and then concentrate on the high value exercise.
Personally, I recommend having your grandson over to run you up and down the stairs constantly for six days. You can totally win an Activity competition on the Apple Watch with that strategy.
One of the fun things about Apple’s Activity app is that you get badges. I know, they’re virtual but Pat and I love them and will go out of our way to get them. When you complete a a competition, you get a badge for it. You get more of them the more you do.
When you win a challenge. You get a different badge, this one with a gold star on it. You’d be amazed what I’ll do to get a gold star!
Now the bad news is that Forbes has gone home and Pat has challenged me again this week. The good news is that my doctor gave me the green light to start running again now that my broken toe is healed.
I will have to figure out a way to stand up every single hour I’m awake to get as many easy points as I can but without Forbes’s help. I think I’ll set a repeating reminder for 10 till the hour to stand all day every day. Since I usually hit my stand goal, the Apple Watch doesn’t remind me automatically.
I also upped my calorie goal to 680 to match Pat’s. The only chance I have to beat her this week is that we’re still rearranging our house every day as the painters chase us from room to room. Game on, Pat!