How to turn your iPhone into a step counter

Your iPhone already diligently counts how many steps you take and how many miles you walk each day. Here is how to use the pedometer you already own.

Apple, health, digital health, iPhone, iOS, Apple Watch, iOS 12, health apps
Apple

Have you ever wondered how many steps you take in any working day? The good news is that if you happen to be an iPhone owner, you don’t need to invest in a step counter – the function is built inside of Apple’s life-saving Health app. Here’s what you need to know:

What is Apple's Health app?

Hopefully, most iPhone users already know about the Health app inside iOS.

It gathers all kinds of health-related data from your iPhone, Apple Watch (if you have one), and apps you are already using.

Introduced alongside iOS 8, Health is a very important part of Apple’s platform and is becoming even more important as the company weaves health-related improvements across its product range. CareKit, HealthKit, and ResearchKit were recently joined by Apple’s provision of a Health Records app for iPhones.

In the future, we’ll likely see Health become an increasingly important component not just of Apple’s platforms, but also in terms of general healthcare provision.

Meanwhile, your iPhone is already a pedometer, just follow these steps to use the feature:

How to use your iPhone as a pedometer

Your iPhone measures your steps only when you carry it with you. It's the same for your Apple Watch – you have to be wearing it. 

The system is pretty accurate. Research shows it tends to under- rather than over-estimate your activity.

iPhones now automatically monitor the steps you take when you walk or run. They will also track Activity data from your Apple Watch.

  • To check this information, open the Health app and go to the ‘Health Data’ section.
  • Tap Activity and you’ll see information about how many steps you have walked, how many flights you’ve climbed, standing, running and so on.
  • You can explore a full analysis of your current progress in the Today tab inside the Health app. Tap on any of the metrics there for more information.

How to add data from other apps to Apple Health

Many third-party health-related apps integrate with Apple Health.

To see which apps you have already installed that will work with Health, open it and tap the Sources tab. If you see an app listed there, you can tap it to explore, enable or disable the categories it tracks.

You can also search for and install new apps through the Health app. To do so, tap a category, such as Sleep.

  • You will see a selection of Recommended Apps. (In the Sleep category, I still see a link to Beddit, which Apple acquired in 2017.)
  • Tap one of these items, and you’ll be taken directly to the relevant App Store page where you can download and install the software.
  • Once you have installed the app and set it up as you want it, you should open Health>Sources, tap the app name that will then be available, and enable the categories you want to track.

Protect your Health (data)

Your Health data is pretty valuable. You can back it up to iCloud and/or iTunes.

iCloud

To enable iCloud back up just open Settings>iCloud>Health and ensure the box is ticked to on.

iTunes

To back your Health data up to iTunes on your computer you will need to connect your device, open iTunes, select the device and ensure Encrypt iPhone backup is enabled in the Summary box.

Up next for the Health app

Apple has made several improvements to Health in iOS 12.

These include a new type of opt-in alert for important information, such as reports from a healthcare provider, which you’ll receive even when Do Not Disturb is on, and life-saving improvements to how iPhones handle the process of making emergency calls.

Apple Watch users gain from workout competitions, automatic Workout recognition, new Yoga and hiking workouts and (great news for joggers) much-improved tools to capture information about your run, including pace alerts and rolling miles.

I hope this short guide helps you begin to make better use of the health-related toolkit you already carry with you.

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