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Apple Health data considerations with Garmin Forerunner and an Apple Watch

Sep 26, 2020

I’ve been an exclusive Apple Watch and Apple Health user for the last 2 years. Though recently I moved to a dual-watch setup between the Apple Watch and a Garmin Forerunner 245. In this post I’ll go through why I made this change. I’ll also cover things to consider with your Apple Health data.

I love Apple Health. Its function as a data repository for your apps and devices is simplicity at its finest. Having its data pulled to Exist powers my analysis of my tracking data.

Despite my love of how Apple Watch and Apple Health work together, its drawbacks are popping up more.

This year I have been running more than I have ever run in my life. As 10+ miles are becoming more common my thoughts drift to runs longer than marathon distance. I haven’t committed to anything yet, but I do want to run a 50 miler next year. The Apple Watch battery drains fast with GPS. Apple claims the new Series 6 can last ~7 hours with GPS on. This would be fine for a 50 miler, but 100 miler - forget about it.

Then there are 2 other annoyances I’ve found with the Apple Watch recording GPS workouts:

1 - Apple Watch does not tell you when it has a strong GPS connection. When you start, it will use other data at its disposal but I’ve found it will overreport total distance.

2 - When it’s colder out, the Apple Watch has a tendency to turn off saying low battery. This is infuriating. It happened on both my Series 4 and Series 5. I’d be running and then the watch restarts saying it’s only at 10% battery. I suspect something tries to use a lot of power and the watch gets confused and turns off. With winter coming the situation was untenable.

I bought a Garmin Forerunner 245 because the Garmin Connect app for iOS will save data to Apple Health. This means I can take the Forerunner out for runs and use my Apple Watch during all other times. Since the Garmin data saves to Apple Health, I’d have a consolidated view of my data!

Unfortunately, it’s not as plug and play as I’d hoped. I’ve built systems and workarounds to deal with them that I’ll outline.

Garmin Connect can save the following data to Apple Health:

  • Active Energy
  • Body Fat Percentage
  • Body Mass Index
  • Flights Climbed
  • Heart Rate
  • Resting Energy
  • Resting Heart Rate
  • Sleep
  • Steps
  • Walking + Running Distance
  • Water
  • Weight
  • Workouts

#1 Garmin Sucks at Syncing Data to Apple Health

Sucks is an understatement. Posts about doubling of data litter Garmin’s Support Forums. None of them receive an official note if it’s even on their backlog to fix.

In my experience, these 4 data categories are my primary concern:

  • Active Energy
  • Steps
  • Walking + Running Distance
  • Workouts

I had no issues with the Workouts syncing. The other categories get doubled or wouldn’t sync at all.

Data being incorrect is not acceptable. I turn on Workouts sync from Garmin Connect to Apple Health. You can include Heart Rate with the Workouts. I enter Active Energy, Steps and Walking + Running Distance into Health using the Add Data. It’s annoying but I only have to do it once a day and it gives me peace of mind. I’m looking to streamline that process further, but that will likely be a topic of a future post.

#2 Garmin Connect Workouts do not count towards your Move Goal

Apple only counts calories towards the Move goal if you are wearing your Apple Watch. It does count Exercise minutes. I don’t understand the rational behind this. To account for this I switched my Move goal lower. It now my non-running daily Move goal.

Monthly challenges will also be a little more difficult. For example my September goal was to walk or run 322.4 miles. Even though in Apple Health I’ve gone 314 miles so far, the Fitness app is only crediting me with 251.2 miles. That is because the miles I enter is not counted.

I have had to learn to live with this gap. Accurate run data is more important than badges.

If you’re considering a similar move and have other questions please let me know in the comments. If you’ve gone through this same thing and have tips I’d also love to hear about it.