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watchOS 11 — Apple Watch is finally getting the fitness feature I've been waiting for

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(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple has officially unveiled watchOS 11 at WWDC 2024 and there's no shortage of notable improvements to share, from smarter Smart Stacks to support for the Translate app on Apple Watch. 

One update in particular, however, has the collective Apple Watch-wearing Tom's Guide contingency jumping up and down with joy, especially me: You can now, finally, take a day (or days) off from closing your wellness Rings in the Activity app, without fear of breaking a streak. 

This is, of course, far from the only wellness-related update. watchOS 11 also introduces a new Vitals app for health monitoring, improved pregnancy tracking, additional workout training metrics and more in an effort to make one of the best smartwatches even better. Get all the details below. 

Pause your Activity Rings

The Apple Watch Activity app is a great motivational tool for maintaining an active lifestyle. As someone who spends a lot of time at a desk, I appreciate the extra encouragement to stand, move and workout more often. And while closing my rings entertainingly gamifies fitness, the challenge can also be kind of stressful when you've got a solid streak going with awards/achievements on the line.

No longer. Now you can finally take a day off. Need more than just a day? Go ahead and take a week or a month. Doing so will not impact your Activity streak. Better yet, users can now adjust their Ring goals by the day of the week.

Health monitoring with the Vitals app

The best Apple Watch models like the Ultra 2 and Series 9 are packed with health monitoring tech. However, up until now, important wellness data has been scattered across several different apps. With watchOS 11, users can monitor their core vitals in the new and appropriately named Vitals app.

Not only can you view your current heart rate, respiratory rate, skin temperature and more, but the app continuously compares current health metrics to past ones, monitoring for anomalies. 

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When multiple metrics are out of whack, users will receive a notification. The Vitals app can also keep tabs on lifestyle changes that might impact health, like elevation increases, alcohol consumption and illness. 

New Training load metric

The Vitals app also introduces a new training load metric to help users better understand their performance and not overwork themselves. More specifically, training load analyzes how the intensity and duration of workouts impact a user over time. It's a similar feature as found on some of the best Garmin watches, which brings Apple's devices into even closer competition.

Each workout is individually graded on an intensity scale ranging from one to ten. To track intensity, the app analyzes heart rate, GPS and elevation data. It additionally takes into account a user's age, height and weight. Users can also manually note if stress or soreness impacted their workout performance.

After a 28-day period of analysis, you'll see your training load reported as one of the following: well below, below, steady, above, or well above. By the way, this metric is viewable across all of Apple's health and fitness-related apps. 

Other watchOS 11 wellness improvements

Other wellness-related watchOS 11 improvements include the ability to customize the Fitness app's summary tab with the info that matters most to you, like Apple's newly introduced metrics for biking, hiking, running and mindfulness. 

Improved pregnancy tracking is also part of the watchOS 11 update. When you log a pregnancy in the Health app, the Cycle Tracking app will show your gestational age and let you log and track common pregnancy symptoms. The app also sends useful reminders about heart rate and mental health. 

Finally, the Apple Watch's Check In feature now works from within the Fitness app, making it easy to inform a friend or family member before heading out on a run, walk, hike or bike ride with greater ease. You can also now view your Check In status from the Smart Stack. 

More from Tom's Guide

Dan Bracaglia covers fitness and consumer technology with an emphasis on wearables for Tom's Guide. Based in the US Pacific Northwest, Dan is an avid outdoor adventurer who dabbles in everything from kayaking to snowboarding, but he most enjoys exploring the cities and mountains with his small pup, Belvedere. Dan is currently training to climb some of Washington State's tallest peaks. He's also a big photography nerd. 

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