The powerful simplicity of the Apple Watch’s Close Your Rings initiative

Joshua Poh
4 min readApr 19, 2020

“Three rings: Move, Exercise, Stand. One goal: Close them every day. It’s such a simple and fun way to live a healthier day that you’ll want to do it all the time. That’s the idea behind the Activity app on Apple Watch.” — Apple.

While we’re all stuck at home, the Internet has made it incredibly convenient to continue getting your workouts in. Home workout videos, Instagram Live workout sessions from your favourite fitness influencers — one is spoilt for choice.

But what about the psychological aspect of getting your workout done?

Exercise isn’t fun all the time. There are days you want to curl up in bed and sleep instead of getting your workout in.

While technology like fitness trackers aren’t mandatory, it helps encourage living an active lifestyle. I’ve been using an Apple Watch as a replacement for my broken Fitbit Charge 3 over the last few months it’s amazing how effective the activity tracker has been at motivating me to integrate movement into my day.

Close Your Rings and the Apple Watch follows several behaviour change principles that make getting activity into your day measurable and enjoyable.

Close Your Rings is a simple, accessible idea:

Notice the lack of technical language or fitness jargon used. No references to metabolic heart rates or ‘fat-burning’ zones — language commonplace in the fitness world.

Apple’s Close Your Rings makes it simple: Get 30 minutes of activity in per day.

Beyond the usual suspects like running or gym time, Apple has opened it up to everyday activities. Walking the dog, gardening or zip lining. Everything counts.

There’s a perceived lack of barriers to getting your movement in. For people who associate exercise with countless hours running like a hamster on treadmills or pumping iron, this is a powerful paradigm shift.

You don’t have to be a seasoned marathon running or commit to hours-Long sessions in the gym to close your rings and reap the health benefits of exercise.

30 minutes of movement above a brisk walking pace and you’re done.

How often have we procrastinated and avoided getting our movement in because we thought it was too hard? The simplicity of the Close Your Rings fits into your daily life.

It’s motivating to know that all your activities count, right?

Visualisation of progress is concrete, measurable and actionable

The three Activity rings you need to fill are marked out in vibrant, bold colours on the Apple Watch.

For example, for every hour you get up and move around, there’s progress towards closing the stand ring. This simple visualisation of progress is oh-so-satisfying. I’ve found myself taking longer routes or walking around the house to close these rings.

Seeing these rings closed for the day make me happy. FIt’s one of those small wins that makes it motivating to get your minutes in.

Note to self: Humans love their gold stars. Rewarding a behaviour is a perfect way to reinforce it.

Smart use of Haptic Reminders to nudge you into performing the habit

Exercise, like any good habit, needs a trigger, something that nudges you to take consistent action.

Yet there’s a certain subtlety required. Become too intrusive, and the habit becomes unpleasant to perform, making you more likely to quit. But become too obscure and you might ignore or miss the feedback.

The Apple Watch’s Close Your Rings approach accomplishes a healthy middle:

I’ve had many occasions where I’ve been engrossed in a task, my posture gone out of alignment and rooted in my chair for eons. This results in terrible hip and backaches if done consecutively over days.

These gentle nudges from the Apple Watch to stand up and move or inform us that we were falling short on our Exercise goals are surprisingly effective. I’ve taken more consistent move breaks since getting the watch.

The Apple Watch has been a fascinating glimpse into how technology can influence your daily life.

It seems ironic that technology has made us more sedentary with cars, robots and computers getting us to sit down in a chair and not move. Yet, technology can also solve these problems created (or amplified) by technology.

Fitness trackers and the psychology behind them are not a new invention. It has been interesting to see how technology can influence our psychology and habit-building methods — starting with the watch on your wrist.

Originally published at https://www.joshuapoh.com on April 19, 2020.

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Joshua Poh

Freelance writer and content marketer for B2B SaaS companies. More at https://www.joshuapohwrites.com/