How to Track Steps & Mileage with iPhone to Make the Health App Useful
The Health app, loaded onto all iPhones with iOS 8 and sitting prominently on the home screen, is clearly ambitious, but at the moment the majority of it’s intended abilities remain inactive or useless (at least without additional third party sensors, which don’t seem to exist yet). But for those with a new iPhone, the Health app can be useful right now, because it has the ability to track your steps like a pedometer, as well as flights of stairs climbed, and your walking / running distance.
To track some of your activity, you’ll need to enable the functions and then add them to your Health app dashboard. This is all done through the Health app itself, but again, it requires a newer iPhone, as older models do not have a motion tracking chip used to function as a pedometer, or the ability to detect elevation.
For best results with this Health app feature, you’ll need an newer model iPhone, anything newer than iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus is ideal, though iPhone 5S also has a motion coprocessor. Third party devices can also work, but we’re focusing on iPhone here.
How to Turn iPhone into a Pedometer & Walking Distance Tracker
- Open Health app and go to the “Health Data” tab
- Tap on “Fitness” and enable the three currently functional sections:
- Select “Walking + Running Distance” and flip the switch for “Show On Dashboard” to the ON position
- Choose “Steps” and toggle “Show On Dashboard” to ON
- Go to “Flights Climbed” and flip the same “Show On Dashboard” to ON
Now that the pedometer and distance movement functions are enabled, the rest is up to you, meaning you have to actually move around to see the statistics change.
The steps feature is quite accurate as long as you have the iPhone with you – whether it’s in your pocket, in hand, or a pack seems to work and register as expected, and the mileage walking + running distance indicator is also apparently accurate enough from testing experience. The Flights Climbed function works well too, and is fairly interesting in that it uses the new air pressure sensor built into iPhones to detect even minor changes in altitude. Each “flight” is about the equivalent of a housing story of steps, so if you walked upstairs a single story in a house or office, it would register as a flight climbed. You don’t need to be on actual stairs for the flights climbed to register though, it takes the relative assumption of height into consideration and works even on gradual inclines and declines too.
Separately, if you take a moment to poke around in Health app, it will demonstrate how ambitious Apple is with the app, either on future intentions of what various iOS devices will be able to do, or what they expect to surface from third parties. With the potential ability to track a huge variety of health and fitness statistics, from body measurements, to fitness, nutrition, sleep, vitals, lab results, and much more, the future looks pretty interesting, though at the moment Health app feels very half-baked due to it’s limited functionality and the apparently missing data input sources.
If you don’t want to use Health app and have no intention on tracking your fitness or activity levels, you’re left to basically ignore the app. Much like other default apps, you can not delete the Health app from the iPhone, though you could choose to hide it either by stuffing it within a folder or using Restrictions to make the icon disappear from the home screen.
Finally, it’s well worth mentioning that using these Health tracking features have showed no notable impact on battery performance, which is great news for those concerned about battery life in iOS 8. Of course, the iPhone 6 Plus has great battery life to begin with, so even if a tiny effect was there, it would likely be minimal and go unnoticed, and reports suggest the same for iPhone 6.