Walking is an easy way to exercise – just grab your sneakers and head out the door. But if you want to take it to another level, you can use your smartwatch to boost your walks!
A smartwatch can help you find new routes, keep you safe and motivated, and track how far and fast you’ve been walking.
Keep in mind that not all smartwatches will have the same features. You may need to explore yours to find out exactly what it can do.
But to get an idea of what a smartwatch can do, read on as we cover how they can help you walk!
Difference Between a Smartwatch and a Fitness Tracker
Is your on-wrist device a smartwatch or a fitness tracker? Both track your workouts and health metrics like heart rate, steps, and calories burned.
A smartwatch has all the features of a fitness tracker, but also includes features that make it more like a phone. You can receive messages, listen to music, use GPS, and even make phone calls.
Fitness trackers are much simpler. They mainly track fitness metrics. They’re usually more affordable than a smartwatch making them great for beginners.
How a Smartwatch Can Improve Your Walking Routine
A smartwatch can be a great tool to improve your walks! Here are some of the handy things you can do with a smartwatch.
Know How Far You’ve Walked
Knowing your distance is useful and keeps you motivated. Using a smartwatch means you can easily track how far you’ve gone and how much is left.
You can also use your smartwatch to go halfway to your goal distance and then turn around if you are doing and out-and-back.
Knowing how far you walk is also a great way of measuring progress. You can see if your walks are getting longer or shorter.
Find Your Average Walking Speed
Your walking speed – aka pace – can be a fun thing to track. As your walking improves, it can be both fun and interesting to monitor your average speed and see it going up.
Automated Reminders to Keep You Moving
One of the best things to come out of smartwatches is a movement reminder! This feature alerts you every time you’ve been sitting for too long.
If you’ve got a desk job, this is particularly handy. Every little bit counts towards your daily step goal, and sometimes it’s easy to sit for hours on end without even realizing it.
You can set movement reminders for specific periods of time—for example, every hour, every two hours, etc—so that you get plenty of movement in your day.
GPS Helps You Find New Routes
Many—but not all—smartwatches are GPS-enabled, which means you can use them to find new routes. Some of the more high-end smartwatches have turn-by-turn navigation, but many use breadcrumb navigation.
Whatever kind of GPS smartwatch you have, you should be able to set a route and follow it on your watch.
Benefits of Wearing a Smartwatch
Wearing a smartwatch has plenty of benefits, especially when wearing it while you walk.
Help You Set and Achieve Your Fitness Goals
The data on your smartwatch helps you to get a good idea of your fitness level. From there, you can set appropriate goals.
If you know your average walking pace or distance, it becomes easier to set specific goals based on time or distance.
For example, if your average walking pace is 2.5 miles per hour and you usually walk for 30 minutes, you can aim for one of two things: you can either try to increase your pace—perhaps to 3 miles per hour—or your time, maybe to 33 to 35 minutes.
Whatever you choose to do, having a smartwatch that measures everything will be a huge help in tracking your progress toward this goal.
Keeps You Motivated
Seeing your progress can be very motivating! When you reach your step goal or your calorie goal on your smartwatch, it makes you feel good about yourself and your walking.
Another way to help motivate you—if you have a compatible smartwatch—is to listen to music while walking. Some smartwatches are compatible with Bluetooth earphones, although we highly recommend bone-conduction earphones if you’re walking in busy areas.
Tracks Your Health Stats
There’s more to smartwatches than just tracking your heart rate. While HR is important, other things could potentially be more helpful depending on you and your health.
You should be able to track things like your respiratory rate, your heart rate variability, and even advanced sleep metrics, in addition to your walking statistics.
Know How Many Calories You’ve Burned
If you’re walking for weight loss, knowing how many calories you’re burning is essential. The only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you eat, so knowing how many you’re burning during exercise is a valuable tool.
Note that smartwatches only track “active calories”—those burned during exercise. Your body continues to burn calories during the day, so it’s a good idea to use a calorie calculator like this one to figure out your total calorie burn.
Suggested Daily Workouts
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys something a little different every day, your smartwatch may be able to suggest daily workouts for you.
Some smartwatches come with built-in exercise plans, where you may be able to choose a walking plan and simply follow each daily workout. These build upon each other to help you progress quickly but safely.
It’s Easier to Know When to Take a Rest Day
Thanks to recovery tracking, most smartwatches give you excellent insight into when you might need to rest and recover rather than push through.
If yours features recovery tracking, it uses your activity data and your sleep data to work out a “recovery score.” Based on this score, it may recommend taking a rest day in order to recover more fully before doing another workout.
On the other hand, if you’re very well recovered, your watch may even suggest that you push yourself a little harder in your upcoming walk.
How Accurate Is a Smartwatch?
Most smartwatches are surprisingly accurate when it comes to heart rate, breathing rate, and step count. They’re also generally spot-on when it comes to distance, time, and pace.
The only potentially inaccurate metric is calories burned. As most smartwatches don’t account for your height, weight, and metabolism, it becomes difficult to accurately measure the number of calories burned in a workout.
But more importantly, your smartwatch helps you to track trends over time, your own consistency, and your effort. This may be more important even than the specific calorie count.
Tips to Improve Your Walking Routine With a Smartwatch
Want to make the most of your smartwatch during your walks? Here’s how to get the best out of it and supercharge your walks.
Customize the On-Screen Menus to Suit You
There’s no need to leave the watch menus as they are when you receive the watch. It’s likely that there are a lot of features you won’t need or use, so customize it to suit you, and you’ll find the watch to be much more user-friendly.
You can place the items that you use a lot near the top of the menu for easy access. On some watches, you may be able to remove things that you don’t use at all, which will make the watch seem a lot less cluttered.
You may need to consult the user manual or Google to find out how to do this, but in most cases, it should be an easy process.
Set Up Activity Heart Rate Zones
To work out your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. When walking, you shouldn’t exceed 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. To work out that number, multiple your maximum heart rate by 0.85.
Here’s an example. If you’re 30, your maximum heart rate should be 220 – 30 = 190. 85 percent of that is 161.5. That means your heart rate should not exceed 161 beats per minute during your walk.
You should be able to set your maximum heart rate on your watch so your heart rate zones will be set. Then, you can see how much of your walk you do in each heart rate zone, and make sure you’re sticking to the right ones.
Set Your Goals
You can also set things like your daily step goal, daily calories, distance goals, exercise time goals, and more. This will help you to make sure you stay on track with your goals and know where you need to improve.
Most smartwatches show your steps, distance, and calories on their watch face so you can see them as you go. In some cases, you may need to log into the accompanying app to see your progress.
Wear the smartwatch for about a week to figure out what your baseline is. Work out your average daily step count, for example, and set a realistic goal.
Vary Your Walks With Intervals
Some smartwatches allow you to set intervals so you can do short interval training sessions with your walking.
You’ll be able to set different intervals on your smartwatch—for example, you could set up something like 3 minutes of brisk walking and then 1 minute of easy walking, or anything that works for you.
Intervals will get your heart rate going and can burn more calories, not necessarily during the workout but afterwards as the rest of the day goes.
Monitor Heart Rate
A smartwatch can be particularly useful for those who have heart conditions and need to keep an eye on their heart rate.
You can set up an alert for high and low heart rates, so your watch will let you know when something is out of the ordinary.
Connect to a Walking App
If you want to follow a walking plan on an app like MapMyWalk, you can connect it easily to your smartwatch, so your data pulls through to the app. This will allow you to easily track every workout, compare it to previous workouts, and see your progress in real-time.
You may also be able to find a community to join where you connect with other people, make new friends, or even find a walking buddy in your area.
Take Part in a Walking Challenge
If you use a walking app, you’ll find that many offer free walking challenges for their users. These can vary widely—one may be a challenge to walk 10,000 steps every day for a week, while another may be something like completing 4 interval walks each week for a month.
Taking part in one of these challenges can be motivating and fun. You have a goal to work towards, and in some cases, there may even be prizes!