watchOS 7.2 and iOS 14.3 Add Cardio Fitness Notifications

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Today’s watchOS 7.2 and iOS 14.3 updates introduce a new cardio fitness feature that’s designed to let users determine their cardio fitness level and receive notifications on the Apple Watch if it falls into a low range.

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Apple says that “breakthrough technology” in watchOS 7 lets the Apple Watch determine cardiorespiratory fitness as measured by VO2 max. VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen that the body is able to use during exercise, and it can be improved through physical activity.

Prior to now the Apple Watch was already able to estimate higher levels of VO2 max during outdoor walks, runs, or hikes, but by taking advantage of all of the sensors in the Apple Watch, in watchOS 7.2 it’s now possible for the watch to take cardio fitness measurements as users walk throughout the day, regardless of whether they’re tracking a workout.

“Cardio fitness is increasingly recognized as a powerful predictor of overall health, and with today’s update to ‌watchOS 7‌, we are making it even more accessible to more people,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “Using its advanced sensors, Apple Watch now brings estimation of low cardio fitness levels from clinics directly to a user’s wrist, so people have more insight into how they can improve their long-term health through daily activity.”

This functionality lets Apple Watch better measure VO2 Max for users who don’t often do high-intensity workouts. In a press release announcing the new feature, Apple says that a 2016 study from the American Heart Association recognized a link between low cardio fitness and higher risk of significant health issues like heart disease and high blood pressure later in life.

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Cardio Fitness is available as a new category in the Health app on iPhone, and fitness level is classified as high, above average, below average, or low relative to people in your same age group and of the same sex. Users can also track how their cardio fitness levels have changed over the past week, month, or year, and if fitness levels fall into the low range, they can get a notification on Apple Watch that includes guidance on improving it.

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