Apple Watch Activity Calories 002

According to numerous posts over at Apple Support Communities, as well as a huge thread on MacRumors’ forums, an unknown subset of Apple Watch owners are complaining about their resting calories in the Activity and Workout apps being all over the place.

As opposed to active calories burned when working out or performing basically any other activity other than breathing and lying in bed, your body needs resting calories to sustain itself and digest food when you’re reclining with your muscles relaxed.

In other words, resting calories are burned when you’re doing absolutely nothing aside from being alive.

Apple is apparently aware of the issue and is working on a fix for the resting calories bug in an upcoming update, according to Reddit.

Though inaccurate resting calorie readings can be annoying, I’m not entirely convinced this issue affects many Apple Watch owners and I know it won’t concern much the active types among them.

For starters, resting calories don’t mean much—that’s why fitness buffs are mostly interested in the active calories.

I suspect that for some of the affected users inaccurate resting calories may have something to do with inaccurate health data about themselves.

The Apple Watch uses your age, gender, height and weight, in addition to the GPS in your iPhone and data from its own built-in sensors, to calculate both your resting calories and ones you burn during exercise.

That’s why providing correct values on these is an important first step towards giving your Apple Watch an accurate data to work with.

To update your birthdate, sex, height and weight values, open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and change the values under the My Watch > Health section.

Apple Watch app Health user info iPhone screenshot 001

“In addition, the more you run with the Workout app , the more Apple Watch learns your fitness level—and the more accurately it can estimate the calories you’ve burned during aerobic activity,” Apple notes.

Also referred to as Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), resting calories differ from one person to another. As a rule of thumb, an average person requires about 1600 calories to keep their body running if they did nothing except laying in bed and breathing all day.

Here’s a formula to calculate resting calories for both men and women.

For women:

  • BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)

For men:

  • BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)

Try experimenting with the calorie calculator here.

The Move ring in the Activity glance/app shows how many calories you’ve burned. You can swipe on the lower half of the screen during your workout to review elapsed time, average pace, distance covered, calories consumed and heart rate.

A breakdown of your resting vs. active calories is available after completing a workout in the Workout app, and via the Activity app on your iPhone.

Yesterday, I completed a short 15-minute bicycle ride, burning an estimated 81 active calories during the activity. During the workout, my body needed an additional 25 resting calories to sustain itself, yielding a total of 106 calories burned.

As evidenced by the screenshot below, I have not found my resting calories to be all over the place so I’m clearly not plagued by this issue.

Activity for iOS resting vs active calories iPhone screenshot 001

It’s also kinda important to note that the Apple Watch calculates the calorie burn differently for outdoor and indoor walk/run/cycle workouts.

For indoor workouts, the device relies mainly on your heart rate readings for calorie estimates. For outdoor workouts, your Apple Watch works in conjunction with the GPS in your iPhone to calculate speed and distance.

Apple Watch Workout Activity image 003

Keep in mind that enabling the Power Saving mode under My Watch > Workout > Power Saving Mode in the Apple Watch companion app on your iPhone will disable the heart rate sensor during long walking and running workouts. As a result, your calorie burn estimates might not be as accurate.

For more accurate Workout and Activity tracking when your iPhone is unavailable, Apple recommends calibrating the Apple Watch until it learns about your stride.

So, are your resting calories off?

Source: Apple Support Communities, MacRumors Forums, Reddit

  • OneBigInFiniteJoint

    Christian, your title has a grammatical error. it should be “Is your Apple Watch” & not “are”. please correct it.

    • How’s so?

      “calories” is plural — hence, “are”

      • OneBigInFiniteJoint

        that’s correct. but in your current title you have made your subject ” Apple Watch” not “Calories. if you want to put are and make your subject “calories” then you have to rephrase the title to ” Are your calories resting all over the place in Apple Watch”

      • Alexander Sundiev

        I prefer Christian’s title, and it is correct.

      • Chang in Charge

        No the subject is “Apple Watch resting calories.” Obviously the meaning is the resting calories of/on your Apple Watch. At best you could say the title should be “Apple Watch’s resting calories.”

      • No “Apple Watch” is actually the pronoun in that sentence.

  • Bybymax

    Hi there! Thx for the article. Btw, I’m waiting for my AWS to arrive and I was wondering if I could use it riding my bike as I don’t like running much but i’d rather go for a ride. Is my AWS gonna be accurate as far as calories are concerned ? I’m not sure I got everything there… Thx in advance.

    • peteo

      As far as biking, if you launch the work out app and choose outdoor cycle it seems pretty accurate. The part that is an issue is when you are not working out. Seems like the base calorie burn when not exercising is not correct

  • courtneymilan

    As evidenced by your screenshot, you’re not actually looking at the place where Apple shows your total resting calories as calculated for the day. Go to the Activity App. Scroll down to the “move” portion. Swipe to see the next screen. It will show you active calories for the day and resting calories for the day, as well as a total calorie burn.

    The people who are complaining about resting calories being wrong are talking about this screen.

    So go to a completed day, and look at your total daily resting calories as calculated by your Apple Watch, and compare it to your formula that you posted.

  • courtneymilan

    By the way, I can already tell from your posted screenshots that your Apple Watch is, in fact, calculating your resting calories incorrectly. Your BMR is something around 1562 per the formula and the Health App information you posted above.

    Your posted workout shows resting calories of 25 for a workout of 14:51 length. 14.85 minutes out of 1440 possible = Apple is imputing daily resting calories to you of somewhere around 2424 per day. Go check your Move screen like I said, and this number will probably be within 20 calories, yes?

    Apple’s resting calories calculated for you is off by 50%.

  • peteo

    My watch seems to be off. It’s showing me around 3200+ Total calories burned even when I’ve only done 60 mins of walking. That calorie calculator site says 2790 when set moderately active.

  • It is so humorous to me when I get to read how this gimmick is failing it’s users. 🙂

  • Rewjr

    My issue is NO DATA showing in Health App for resting calories. I’ve been wearing the watch 10 days, have exercised almost every day using: outdoor walking, outdoor cycling, row machine, elliptical, and other. The Activity app shows a daily total resting calories around 2500 each of the 10 days. The Health app shows NO DATA. Something is not syncing up right. All my other data is working well: heart rate, workouts, active calories.

  • channa

    Apple watch is incorrect with their resting calories. And Christian it is important to people who are fit. Your article sounds a bit young and immature. Some of us “older” folk and a lot of woman count calories and like to know what we burn. Fitbit has been able to do this well . Apple watch calories burned for the day are over 1000 more than Fitbit. I guess it would be fun to eat that up!

  • Milena

    Hello, my numbers are a lot more than all over the place. I have days with 1,200-1,400 resting calories which is correct, then I have days with 5,000; 8,000; 10,000 even got to almost 12,000 I would say this is more than annoying. At the same time , it happened yesterday. I did my morning walk with my dog and got 174 cal for 2 miles modertatgely fast walk. I did exactly the same in the evening, even a bit more than 2mi, and got 0 active calories??? All other parameters were OK and seamed correct. If anybody has any idea how to adjust something in the setting or else I will appreciate any response. Thanks