Why Apple Fitness and Health need a ‘time off sick’ button

We can’t always do stuff like this.

While Apple surprises some with news it plans to use LiDAR sensors within the navigation systems for its future Apple Car and prepares to show the world why it actually might be quite fun to spend some time in a mixed reality, it would be nice if the company could spend a little energy on its Activity/Fitness apps, and Apple Watch.

What do you do when you get sick?

I’ve suffered from COVID a couple of times across the last few years. The first time was awful, I went purple trying to breath, the third time I could barely stand for two weeks. It wasn’t fun, it damaged my income and I’m convinced my heart health was damaged. I think this because I can see the decline in VO2 levels in the Health app within a week or so of first encountering the disease.

Poor me, I guess.

But that’s not my point.

A close friend of mine also pays attention to Activity/Health on their iPhone and Apple Watch. They’ve recently had surgery and will have limited mobility for a couple of months. They are sick of being told they’ve not hit their activity targets. I’ve known others who have also complained at the problem I’m about to use my tiny platform to highlight (probably not for the first time).

Now, I know you can switch off notifications for the app, but why must you do that? We know sickness, ill health and broken limbs happen, so why isn’t support for those times built into the system?

A humble feature request

Why doesn’t Apple Watch, Activity/Fitness and/or Health have a sick button? Why can’t we tell these systems when we are unwell? Further, given how sophisticated these systems have become in so many ways (they can track wheelchair movement and swimming!), why are they unable to act in a more responsive way to help people handle and recover from illness?

No one wants to be reminded they haven’t walked as much as they should or burned off as many calories as required when they feel sick and miserable. They are already miserable enough by then. But why should it be this way? Why isn’t there a setting in all these apps that users can toggle when unwell? If it existed, perhaps it would time the monitoring system out for so long as they user wanted, and then politely ask if they felt better at that point. This would at least stop these systems reminding people of what they should be doing but aren’t currently capable of when they really need to heal.

But, what about when you are unwell?

But, what about when you are unwell?

I have Apple One, so I do enjoy access to Fitness+. But it seems to me that there’s a huge category of missing exercise routines: What are the appropriate exercise routines someone should take when they have a broken leg or ankle? How does a person with broken arms maintain some degree of fitness? What can you do to burn off calories when you have a strained back?

Those kinds of exercises may be a little risky to present, given those recommendations are being sent toward people with existing physical problems, but surely some categories of this kind of fitness are reasonably safe to offer up? It is, after all, the kind of exercise recommended by sports injury therapists during patient care. That stuff tends to be pretty standard, so what’s wrong with making it available in Apple’s apps?

It seems to me that part of modifying behavior to build better health habits across our societies must also be to provide the best possible advice for people when things do go wrong. Because things do go wrong.

Help to recover

For so many people enduring physical ailments just having access to a little help and guidance toward low level fitness-focused actions they can take safely in their condition represents the kind of empowerment that helps them on their healing journey.

This stuff doesn’t need to be massively challenging. I’m not talking about suggesting people with broken limbs lift weights, but a little advice to help maintain existing health and give patients some sense of personal empowerment as they handle debilitating problems seems like a good idea to me.

And if Apple can’t do that, given it’s probably busy developing on device LLM AI, could it at least give those of us who really get a kick completing those Fitness and Activity tasks an ‘Off sick/injured’ button, and perhaps develop ways to track and nurture people’s health on the recovery journey?

Thank you for sharing this rant.

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