Jay Blahnik Discusses Success of Apple Watch's Fitness Test Lab Over Past Five Years

by

Ahead of Apple's now-confirmed September 12 media event, during which it's believed to announce the newest versions of the Apple Watch, iPhone, and Apple TV, Men's Health was invited to visit Apple's secret exercise lab where activity data on its wearable device is collected. Apple invited the media to its Apple Watch lab before the launch of the original Apple Watch in early 2015, and now Jay Blahnik, Apple’s director of fitness and health technologies, said that the lab has "collected more data on activity and exercise than any other human performance study in history."

Although Apple revealed the lab in 2015, Blahnik mentioned that work in the department has been ongoing for the past five years. The lab enlists Apple employees to perform various exercises while hooked up to metabolic carts, ECG machines, and $40,000 masks that analyze calories burned, oxygen consumption, and more. Around 40 employees work out in the lab at one time, all monitored by 13 exercise physiologists and 29 nurses and medics.

apple watch lab 1


The lab includes a studio for group fitness programs, one room with an endless pool to measure the new waterproof abilities of Apple Watch, and another trio of rooms mimicking intense temperature conditions, which Apple calls "Higher, Faster, and Stronger." In 2015, Blahnik said the lab had collected over 18,000 hours of fitness data on over 10,000 workout sessions, and now those numbers have jumped to 66,000 hours and 33,000 sessions.

“Our lab has collected more data on activity and exercise than any other human performance study in history,” says Jay Blahnik, Apple’s director of fitness for health technologies, in a rare interview. “Over the past five years, we’ve logged 33,000 sessions with over 66,000 hours of data, involving more than 10,000 unique participants.” A typical clinical trial enrolls fewer than a hundred participants.

Blahnik commented on the "game-ifying" of fitness challenges that Apple has introduced with Apple Watch and Activity Sharing, where users can follow their friends' calorie, workout, and standing data throughout the day, and encourage or taunt one another in the process. He said that Apple's goal was to make it easier for people to feel part of a workout community, even when they aren't nearby one another, providing another "fun way to stay in touch" with friends on Apple Watch.

apple watch lab 2
With watchOS 4, Apple Watch devices will also be gaining the ability to provide more nuanced insight into each user's daily goals, and give them little prompts towards the end of the day regarding how close they might be to closing an Activity Ring. The company has put together corporate fitness challenges around all of these activity features in the past, which Blahnik said has catalyzed healthy lifestyles that many employees continue to maintain.

This year Apple held its own global monthlong corporate health challenge, with tens of thousands of participants in teams of four, using the Lose It! Challenges app. Closing the watches’ tricolored rings was part of the game. It seeded health streaks that many at the company are still maintaining. “You noticed it on campus and in our retail stores,” says Blahnik. “Everyone was more active and engaged in their health. There was a lot of back and forth to encourage and motivate your team members to close their rings.”

The third-generation Apple Watch -- expected to be called "Series 3" -- is rumored to include cellular connectivity, further untethering Apple Watch from iPhone and allowing users to send messages and stream Apple Music solely on the wearable device. The Apple Watch Series 3 was originally rumored to see a major design overhaul, but more recent reports have said that added LTE connectivity will be the third generation's big selling point and a form factor change will be held for a future device.

Related Roundup: Apple Watch Series 6
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)

Top Rated Comments

bjaaronrodgie Avatar
43 months ago
It's crazy that they spend so much time on this, yet they're own app is leaps and bounds behind the likes of Garmin and Strava. Also, the inability to view the info on a PC or iPad is insane.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tzm41 Avatar
43 months ago
I think it was the correct decision that Apple made five years ago to build their own lab and develop their own models for fitness tracking. These models really empowered Apple Watch fitness tracking, which maybe is one of the biggest selling point of AW compared to other smart watches.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
profets Avatar
43 months ago

I think it was the correct decision that Apple made five years ago to build their own lab and develop their own models for fitness tracking. These models really empowered Apple Watch fitness tracking, which maybe is one of the biggest selling point of AW compared to other smart watches.

Agreed. Quite impressive to see what they've done here. I love reading about this stuff. Was really fascinated last year to see how much work they had put into swim testing the Series 2.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Zxxv Avatar
43 months ago

The Apple Watch is a motivator and tracker based on the users results. Apple can't guarantee any weight loss or results based on the Apple Watch alone, it's all about the individual that puts the effort in to lose the weight and stay motivated. The Apple Watch is a tool that serves as a reminder and a fairly accurate tracker to help monitor where the user is at in terms of calories and or cardio. The individual has to set goals and standards for themselves, which the Apple Watch can help regulate statistical data for measurement.

Dude do you even exercise? I've been at this for most of my life. Im well aware of the pitfalls for "ordinary" folk. Thats my point. Apple hasn't found the magic formula yet. Thats my point. Get it ;)
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gugy Avatar
43 months ago
I give Apple high praise. The AW for sure helped me improve my fitness. I am an avid swimmer and after using the AW my performance has improved quite a lot.
The data and challenges definitely helps push me further.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Zxxv Avatar
43 months ago

I'm not sure what this response has anything to do with your first post that I quoted you on, as you stated "So what makes apple think it'll work for the average joe."

Regardless, Apple doesn't have to find any 'magic formula'. As I already stated, The Apple Watch is a tool/motivator for the individual to better themselves. Apples job is to put out the best possible product that helps the individual to understand their calorie/cardio ratio. The individual does everything else that they need to based on their effort with physical exercise. That's my point.

You're missing the point.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

apple top apps games 2020

Apple Shares Top 20 Most Downloaded Games and Apps of 2020

Tuesday December 1, 2020 9:38 pm PST by
Alongside picks for the top iPhone, iPad, and Mac apps and games of the year, Apple today shared charts featuring the Top Games of 2020 and the Top Apps of 2020, revealing the most popular free and paid apps and games during the year. Among Us! was the top free game of 2020, followed by Call of Duty: Mobile, Roblox, and Subway Surfers. Ink Inc. Tattoo Drawing was the number four free app,...
m1 chip macbook air pro

Developer Delves Into Reasons Why Apple's M1 Chip is So Fast

Monday November 30, 2020 1:57 pm PST by
Apple's M1 chip is the fastest chip that Apple has ever released in a Mac based on single-core CPU benchmark scores, and it beats out many high-end Intel Macs when it comes to multi-core performance. Developer Erik Engheim recently shared a deep dive into the M1 chip, exploring the reasons why Apple's new processor is so much faster than the Intel chips that it replaces. First and foremost,...
maxresdefault

Italy Fines Apple $12 Million for Misleading iPhone Water Resistance Claims

Monday November 30, 2020 3:10 am PST by
Apple has been slapped with a 10 million euro ($12 million) fine by Italy's antitrust watchdog for unfair commercial practices related to its iPhone marketing in the country. One of the Apple ads cited in the Italian watchdog's proceedings (credit: setteBIT) Specifically, Apple is being charged for misleading claims in promotional messages about how deep and how long iPhones can be submerged...
General cyber monday 20 sale feature

Apple Cyber Monday 2020: Discounts on iPads, Macs, AirPods, and More [Updated]

Monday November 30, 2020 6:25 am PST by
Today is Cyber Monday, a shopping event that sees many of the same deals from Black Friday bleed over into a new week, along with a few brand new offers on everything from Apple products to related accessories. In this post we'll highlight the best online discounts that you can find on Apple devices today. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a...
16 inch MBP Mini Led

Mini-LED M1 MacBook Pro and Mini-LED iPad Pro Models Coming First Half of 2021

Monday November 30, 2020 2:24 am PST by
Apple is widely reported to be embracing mini-LED display backlighting technology for some products next year, and a new report today by DigiTimes has named several of Apple's partners in the supply chain that are expected to benefit from the switch. According to the report, Apple is set to launch its first mini-LED iPad Pro in the first quarter of 2021 and mass produce mini-LED MacBook Pro...
iphone8guide b

iOS 14.2 Quietly Added FaceTime 1080p Support to iPhone 8 and Later Models

Wednesday December 2, 2020 3:21 am PST by
Back in early November, Apple released iOS 14.2 and announced with it a slew of new features for iPhones, but one thing it didn't mention was the apparent addition of support for 1080p FaceTime calls on iPhone 8 and later devices. The little-known fact was discovered by MacMagazine, which found that Apple quietly updated the specs pages for devices like iPhone XR shortly after the release of ...
Mac Mini 2018

Apple Developers Now Able to Natively Run macOS Within AWS With Amazon EC2 Mac Instances

Monday November 30, 2020 9:01 pm PST by
As AWS re:Invent kicks off, Amazon Web Services today announced new Mac instances for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, allowing AWS customers to run on-demand macOS workloads in the AWS cloud for the first time. Amazon says that the new feature extends the flexibility, scalability, and cost benefits of AWS to all Apple developers as those creating apps for iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, Apple...
best apps of 2020

Wakeout! Named Apple's Best App of 2020, While Zoom Earns the Title for Best iPad App

Tuesday December 1, 2020 9:26 pm PST by
Apple today shared its App Store Best of 2020 winners, highlighting its picks for the top iOS, iPadOS, and macOS apps and games released over the course of the year. Apple's iPhone App of the Year award went to Wakeout!, which is a family friendly exercise and movement app that encourages people to complete easy exercises while at home. Apple's iPad App of the Year was Zoom, which soared in...
magsafe duo charger

MagSafe Duo Charger for iPhone 12 and Apple Watch Now Available for Purchase

Tuesday December 1, 2020 4:15 pm PST by
Apple today began selling the MagSafe Duo Charger that was announced alongside the new iPhone 12 models back in October. Priced at $129, the MagSafe Duo offers a MagSafe charging puck for the iPhone 12, 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max, and 12 mini, along with an Apple Watch charger. Though the accessory was announced in October and was listed as coming soon, it was not clear when it would launch. Orders...
imac 5k 2014 video

Apple Adds First iMac Models With Retina 5K Display to Vintage Products List

Tuesday December 1, 2020 8:09 am PST by
The first iMac with a Retina 5K display is one of several iMac models that have been added to Apple's vintage products list this week. In the past, vintage Apple products were no longer eligible for repairs at the Genius Bar or at Apple Authorized Service Providers, but Apple began offering extended repairs of select vintage products in 2018. Many of the iMac models listed below will likely...