There’s a new version of watchOS, the operating system used by the Apple Watch, out today. WatchOS 7.2 includes support for Fitness+, Apple’s new subscription-based fitness service, as well as new cardio fitness notifications.
“Including support for Fitness+” might actually be putting the cart before the horse—Apple Fitness+ requires an Apple Watch to function. The service bundles trainer-led workout videos and regimens with Apple Music, for $9.99 per month, and you can’t sign up for it without an Apple Watch. The watch syncs with whatever device you’re watching the class on, overlaying metrics and progress measured by the watch on top of the video.
WatchOS 7.2 also includes new cardio fitness notifications:
With iOS 14.3 and watchOS 7.2, Apple Watch users can view their cardio fitness level in the Health app on iPhone, and receive a notification on Apple Watch if it falls within the low range. Breakthrough technology released in watchOS 7 allows Apple Watch to easily measure low cardio fitness, and today cardio fitness notifications empower users to be more active for dramatic long-term health benefits.
Cardiorespiratory fitness, as measured by VO2 max, is the maximum amount of oxygen the body can use during exercise, and it can be increased through physical activity. Apple Watch already estimates average and higher levels of VO2 max during vigorous outdoor walks, runs, or hikes, which many runners and other athletes monitor to improve performance.
Estimation of lower levels of VO2 max is new to watchOS 7.2, and it uses an optical heart sensor, GPS, and accelerometer. Although only an estimate, Apple says this feature is significant because direct measurement requires clinical testing with specialized equipment, which isn’t readily available for most people. Apple goes on to reference an American Heart Association report which states that lower cardio fitness—as the new watchOS feature estimates through multiple sensor readings—is “associated with a high risk of cardiovascular disease, all-cause mortality, and mortality rates attributable to various cancers.”
Apple Watch users can visit the Cardio Fitness category in the Health app on iPhone to check their cardio fitness level, which the system classifies as high, above average, below average, or low. The ratings are relative to other people in the same age group and of the same sex as the user, and they can be seen on a week-, month-, or year-long timeline to track changes.
WatchOS 7.2 also allows new optional notification classifications—if enabled, users can get push notifications for low cardio-fitness rating detections, as well as for irregular heart rhythms that may be suggestive of atrial fibrillation. Irregular-heart-rhythm detection and notification, oddly, is not available in all locations—if this is an important feature for you, there’s a list of supported regions to check.