This cool new platform offers more health benefits than all that fitness and nutrition data you’re already tracking

By Caitlin Carlson
December 17, 2014

If you updated your iPhone to the latest i0S8 software, you got a brand new fitness tracker out of the deal too-whether you were aware of it or not. No, the Apple Watch isn't out yet (but you can look forward to these 3 Amazing Features of the Apple Watch), but Apple did introduce a new app, simply called Health.

Open the app (it looks like a white box with a little red heart), and you'll see it's been tracking your steps, walking and running distance, and flights of stairs you climb each day. The app works with something called a "M8 motion coprocessor chip" and an advanced sensor which includes an accelerometer and gyroscope (to determine your orientation in space) to automatically source this info.

But that's not the extent of this healthy tool. HealthKit-think of it like the feature Passbook which collates concert tix, coupons, boarding tickets, and more to one spot on your phone-allows you to do this with all of your health, fitness, and nutrition data. You can add all of your health-related apps into this one space where they work together to give you a compressive look at your overall wellness. Here, a few ways to maximize all that Health has to offer.

Keep It On Hand

Put your phone in your pocket or hold it in your hand when walking around. Doing so will ensure you get a more accurate read on your steps, distance, etc. It will still work if it's in your bag, but it may not be quite as accurate (it may give you extra credit since your bag may swing a bit when you walk!).

Check Your Steps

Use the tools you're getting for free! A few times a day, check how many steps you've logged and aim to take at least 10,000 by each day's end. But the more, the better. One study found that taking 12,500 steps per day helps to counteract the negative impact of sugar.

Shop the App Store

Download some great health apps and allow them to share data with HealthKit (in your apps' settings there will be an option to allow "HealthKit Sharing"). When it comes to nutrition apps (like My Fitness Pal), you can track calories and other key nutrients (like protein and sugar, for example). To get that info on your Health app dashboard, simply click on "Health Data" at the bottom of the screen and turn on "Show on Dashboard" for each nutrient.

Then, Prioritize Your Favorites

If you sync your Jawbone or other fitness tracking devices with Apple Health, and you'd rather use that step and distance info, you can. Simply tap on "Share Data" and move whichever app you prefer to the top of the "Data Sources" list. The same can be done if you use multiple nutrition or weight-loss apps. Simply prioritize the one you use most often. (First, find out The Right Way to Use Weight-Loss Apps.)

Think About the Unexpected

Create your "Medical ID" within the app. You simply enter any allergies, health conditions, and meds you may be taking and add an emergency contact. The info can be accessed even if your phone is locked, so if you fall while out for a run or have some other sort of accident where you can't speak for yourself, you can get the help you need-stat.