After every workout, I usually share a photo of my workout summary from my Apple Watch. I've consistently been getting asked by followers what their Apple Watch Move goal should be. This question is difficult to answer because it varies based on the individual. It depends on things like your gender, age, height, weight, activity level, and weight goals. But, I can give you information to help you calculate your own unique move goal. Thus, this post is to help you understand your body's unique energy expenditure and equip you with tools to calculate your basal metabolic rate, total daily energy expenditure (don't worry I'll explain what this all means) & thus your Apple Watch move goal! **And yes, this post is helpful & relevant for people without Apple Watches too!
But before I dive in, I want to say a few things. Let me be clear, calories should never be the focus of our day! As a Certified Health & Wellness Coach and soon to be a Certified Personal Trainer, my hope is to encourage you to...
listen to your body
move your body
learn to fuel your body with nutrient-dense foods that make you feel vibrant and energized
live a balanced, joy-filled life.
I'm not a big calorie counter, and I don't want to promote that either! Rather I focus on putting nutrient-dense foods and getting adequate servings of each food group into my diet. But, I do understand the importance of knowing what your body needs as fuel. I hope this post helps you understand your body more, and how to best fuel it!
Before I dive in, let's define a few basic terms:
Active Energy (aka your Apple Move Circle): How many calories you burn by moving your body. This involves activities like standing, walking, exercising, doing dishes, cleaning...etc.
Resting Energy (super similar to BMR): This is the Apple Watch estimate of the energy your body uses each day while minimally active or resting. It shows how many calories you burn by simply being alive. This involves bodily functions like breathing and your heart pumping blood to your organs, tissues, muslces, etc.
BMR: Your BMR stands for your Basal Metabolic Rate. We use energy no matter what we are doing -- even if we are sleeping. Our basal metabolic rate is the number of calories we burn by simply living, or simply put, the number of calories we'd burn if we just laid in bed all day. A few things to note about your BMR:
BMR decreases as you age
Diet impacts your BMR. Starving yourself also lowers your BMR -- this is your body's defense mechanism to try to survive. Eating too few calories is harmful to our metabolism because if we starve ourselves of nutrients, our body slows down our metabolism to try to stay alive.
Cardiovascular exercise can increase your BMR
Internal (bodily) and external (air) temperatures can impact your BMR
Genetics impacts your BMR
Gender impacts your BMR. Generally, men's BMR is higher than women's BMR. Men can maintain a lower body fat percentage than women because they do not have the capacity to carry a child. A lower body fat percentage (aka increased lean muscle mass) means an increased BMR.
Total Energy Expenditure/TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure): This is the total number of calories you burn every day. On the Apple Watch, this is your Active Energy + Resting Energy (or your total calories -- as seen in the video below).
Now that the terms are defined, let's discuss next steps. It is important to calculate your BMR, to know how many calories your body uses simply by living. There are a couple of different formulas to calculate your BMR (such as the Harris-Benedict, Mifflin-St Jeor, etc), but to keep things simple, I will just share a BMR calculator (click here) that allows you to choose the formula you like and keeps you from having to do the math...you're welcome ;) Depending on what formula you use, your BMR will change slightly. Be sure you also click "show additional info" and then click on "total daily energy expenditure" By calculating your TDEE as well, you will be able to understand a rough estimate of how many calories you can consume daily to maintain your weight based off of your BMR and activity level.
Once you find your TDEE, you need to decide if you want to lose weight or maintain weight. About 3,500 calories = 1 lb of fat. It is estimated to lose a pound, you need to burn 3,500 calories. If you cut about 500 to 1,000 calories a day from your diet, you can lose about 1-2 lbs/week. However, as a general rule of thumb, nobody should ever go below 1,200 calories/day. Yet, for some (again depending on gender/weight/height/activity level) this may be far too few of calories. Too few calories will lower our BMR and make putting on lean muscle nearly impossible (not to mention have a myriad of other negative effects). It is important to be in a healthy mindset when considering your target calorie goal.
So, what does all this mean about your Apple Watch move goal?
You should set your move goal to the number of calories you would like to burn in addition to your resting energy. This will be dependent on your activity level, age, weight, job, and exercise habits. Your goal should be one that challenges you, but also feels maintainable. I'd recommend starting your goal anywhere from 400-600 calories/day and adjusting it according to your habits, goals, and results. (Remember, this is dependent on so many factors. If you are a tall, active male, your move goal could even be in the 1,000s)!
Ultimately, it is important to set movement goals that challenge us to stay healthy!
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I also recorded this video of me explaining a BRIEF overview of some of these concepts while navigating the Activity and Health app on my iPhone! Feel free to give it a watch.
Note: Not important, but just in case you guys were listening carefully, and got confused -- my estimation of my BMR and TDEE was slightly off. Using the calculator I shared above and using the Mifflin-St Jeor formula, my BMR is: 1,449 kcal/day and my TDEE is in the range of 2,284 - 2,542 kcal/day.