A Traveler’s Guide to the Apple iPhone Health App

Visitors walking in Brussels

By Paul Riegler on 9 July 2018
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While Apple’s Health app is a dashboard to the user’s health data and everyday activity, many users never clicked on the app’s heart-shaped logo to open it. That’s unfortunate, especially for travelers, as the Health app can be a very useful tool.

Since its introduction in iOS 8 in 2014, it’s become more and more complex so here follows a brief guide to understanding and using it.

To begin, first open the app by clicking on its icon, a pink heart on a white background. It’s preinstalled on all iPhones.

The app will, upon opening, immediately display your activity for the current day. If you have no idea, for example, as to how many miles or kilometers a day you walk, what your heart rate is (requires a paired Apple Watch), and even your sleep data if you use the new Bedtime feature in the Clock app.

The Health app differentiates between walking, running, steps, and flights of stairs climbed. It will show your resting and activity heart rates.

Since many people tend to walk far more when traveling (just how far is it to the gate?), you may be surprised at how much ground you cover in one day.

Recently, on a visit to New York, I covered 8.7 miles (13.4 kilometers) which turned out to be 19,231 steps. My resting heart rate was 85 bpm and my heart rate during activity was 129, an interesting comparison to the prior day where I covered 1.9 miles (3 kilometers), 4,446 steps, and had a resting heart rate of 79 bpm.

The Apple watch also picks up other meaningful data such as how often you stand, what your calorie burn for the day was, and how much exercise you are getting.

The app also picks up data from other apps. In my case it looks at Sleep Cycle sleep data and displays how much sleep I had the prior night.

This happens via HealthKit, Apple’s API, which allows third-party health apps to contribute all kinds of metrics and information to Apple Health, ranging from nutritional information and activity information to body temperature, blood pressure, and glucose levels.

Eating well when on the road is tricky and the Nutrition tab in the app will help by counting calories, carbs, and caffeine as well as other metrics and will work in concert with third-party apps as well. This makes it far easier to set and manage goals when on the road.

Of even greater interest to travelers may be the Health Data tab, where one can add medical records from a physician. Some healthcare providers use tools that can share records such as immunizations, lab results, medications, and vital statistics directly in the Health app.

Finally, of perhaps the utmost importance for travelers, the Medical ID feature is where the traveler can place medical data that would be of interest to first responders in an emergency. In cases where you place a call to 911 or 112, your emergency contact will be notified of the call and also of your whereabouts.

That’s where you can add medical records from your physician. Apple aims to make your iPhone a database for all your health information. More than 100 hospitals and clinics in 39 health networks are integrating medical records in Apple Health. You can find a participating hospital, network or location that is participating by using the search bar at the top of the Health Records tab.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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