How does Apple health calculate calories burned?

In this guide, we will discuss “How does Apple health calculate calories burned” and some additional considerations when using the Apple Health app, not only to calculate calories burned but also to choose the best workout that suits your needs. 

How does Apple health calculate calories burned?

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If you wonder, ‘How does Apple Health calculate calories burned?’ We can say that since Apple Health asks your personal information, such as your weight, height, age and gender, it uses the data input to calculate how many calories you burn and more. To update your information, if you haven’t yet, open the app on your iPhone and then tap the My Watch tab> Health > Health Profile> tap Edit and then the item you’d like to change. This will also help to get the most accurate measurements when using the smartwatch.

After updating your information, make sure you earn Move and Exercise credit. Every full minute you use it counts towards your daily exercise and move goals. For wheelchair users, this is measured in brisk pushed. However, any activity below this level will count only towards your daily Move goal.

“To make sure that you earn Exercise credit during walks, allow the arm with your Apple Watch to swing naturally. For example, while walking your pet, let the arm with your watch swing freely while the other holds the leash (”. However, if you need both hands because you may need to push a stroller, you can still earn Exercise credit with the app. Just open the app on your Apple Watch and tap Outdoor Walk.

Subsequently, it is important to remember that the Activity app will rely on arm motion and accelerometer to track your movement but the Workout app can also use the heart rate sensor and GPS.

Make sure Wrist Detection is enabled

It might seem like something obvious but it isn’t. Some users may complain about it since their watch doesn’t seem to work properly after paying a considerate amount of money. However, if Wrist detection is set to ‘Off’, you won’t see the Stand notifications and your Apple Watch won’t be able to track your Stand progress. 

Additionally, background heart rate readings, including resting and walking rates, won’t be taken in Wrist detection. To check this setting, open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, tap on ‘My Watch’ tab and then tap Passcode. Make sure Wrist detection shows as ‘On’.

Check it is the right fit

This also sounds obvious but wearing an Apple Watch without being the right fit, meaning not too tight or loose, and without room for your skin to breathe will make you feel very uncomfortable and the sensors won’t do their job properly. 

You might want to tighten the band a bit more during workouts and loosen it once you are done. Additionally, remember that the sensors will only do their job if you wear it on the top of your wrist. 

Getting accurate heart measurements

“To get the most accurate heart rate measurement when you use Workout, make sure your Apple Watch fits snugly on top of your wrist. The heart rate sensor should stay close to your skin. Learn about the accuracy and limitations of the heart rate sensor (”. If Power Saving Mode is on if you have gone for a walk or running, the heart rate sensor will turn off. To check on the Power Saving Mode settings, open ‘Settings’ on your Apple Watch and then tap ‘Workout’. 

Moreover, if you turn off Heart Rate in the Privacy settings, you also won’t get a heart rate measurement. To see if this option is off or on, open the Apple Watch and tap where it says ‘Privacy’. 

How can I choose the best workout?

It will vary and it will depend on what your goals are or the type of activity you are interested in doing. For instance, if you enjoy running on the treadmill then you can choose Indoor Run and if you are doing an exercise that does not listed, like strength training, then choose the option that says ‘Other’. Let’s learn a bit more about the different workout options available.


If you choose the Indoor Walk when you are using the treadmill to improve the accuracy of the pace and distance walked, first accumulate at least 20 minutes of outdoor walking using the Workout app to calibrate your watch. For Apple Watch Series 1 or earlier, you may need to bring your phone along for calibration.

If you are walking on a track or in a park, you can choose Outdoor Walk and depend on your device, you may need to bring your phone with you to track and record certain metrics such as pace/distance and elevation.


“Choose Indoor Run for running on a treadmill or any time that you’re running indoors. To improve the accuracy of pace and distance for Indoor Run, first, accumulate at least 20 minutes of outdoor running using the Workout app to calibrate your watch. For Apple Watch Series 1 or earlier, you need to bring your iPhone along for calibration (”. 

Basically, the same as Indoor Walking applies in terms of having to bring your phone with you to track and record pace distance and elevation. However, the difference is that it allows you to prepare for a long-distance run such as a marathon.  


You can choose the Indoor Cycle for activities that involve a spin class or riding a stationary bike. However, you also have the option to select ‘Outdoor Cycle’ for riding a bicycle outside. Depending on the type of Apple Watch you have, you may need to bring your phone along to track metrics such as speed and distance, and also elevation. 

Elliptical, Rowing Machine and Stair Stepper

You can choose this option when you are using an elliptical machine or doing something similar. Additionally, select Rower when you use a rowing machine or similar activity and choose Stair Stepper if you are using this type of machine.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

You can choose HIIT when you have cycles of intense exercise, followed by short periods of rest or recovery. For instance, you may skip the rope for 45 seconds and then take a rest for 30 seconds and repeat. However, consider that some of the irregular movements in HIIT may prevent a heart rate measurement. 

Moreover, if this measurement is not available, calories will still be tracked using the accelerometer and if you are still unable to get consistent heart rate measurements during HIIT workouts, you can opt by connecting your Apple Watch to a Bluetooth chest strap.

Why is this blog about How does Apple health calculate calories burned important?

When talking about ‘How does Apple Health calculate calories burned?’ We mentioned that since Apple Health asks your personal information, such as your weight, height, age and gender, it uses the data input to calculate how many calories you burn and more. We must have the correct setting for a more accurate measurement. Additionally, the calories burned will depend on the type of workout or activity you choose. For instance, it may not be the same if you choose HIIT over hiking. 

Finally, remember to adjust the watch to your wrist, not too tight or loose so the sensors will do their job recording the most accurate and reliable information about your health and fitness. 

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about How does Apple health calculate calories burned

How does Apple Health app calculate calories burned?

Apple Health app calculates Total calories burned (active calories + resting calories = Total calories) and can be viewed via the Activity app on your iPhone: On your iPhone, in the Activity app, go to History (tab)> select a day > Scroll down to the Move chart > swipe left on the chart to view total calories. 

Is the Apple Watch accurate for calories burned?

Apple Watch is believed to be pretty accurate for calories burned. However, there are more measuring calories burned than tracking movement and/or heart rate so sometimes the Apple Watch can’t accurately measure calorie burn.

How does the health app show calories?

The Health app shows calories on your iPhone by going to Health data> All > Active Energy > enable Show on Dashboard. For Active Energy, the units of measurement can be set to your choice of calories or kilojoules.

How can I burn 500 calories a day?

If your goal is to burn 500 calories a day, try working out at least 30 minutes a day by:

High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
Climbing stairs.
Bodyweight workouts.

Should I use active or total calories?

If you would like to know if you should use active or total calories here is the difference. Simply put, active calories are the ones you burn while you are walking or climbing, pretty much whatever you do when exercising. Total calories include active calories and resting calories, which are the ones your body burns naturally, even when you are just watching TV on the couch.


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