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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Wish List: Activity Pause for Apple Watch

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

Earlier this year, before the world found itself in the grips of a pandemic, I had a nasty bout of the flu. It laid me flat for a solid week, and even after I’d mostly recovered, it took a while for me to ramp back up to my normal activity.

That one week in January/February was rough.

But apparently nobody told my Apple Watch. For the worst of my illness, I didn’t even bother putting it on, but once I started feeling better, I dutifully got back into the habit. And thus began my Watch’s repeated daily reminders about how I was failing to be active enough. “Stand up!” it would proclaim at ten to the hour, even as I lay huddled on the couch, consuming the entirety of Star Wars: Resistance. “You’re usually further along in your rings by now!”

Look, I get it, Apple Watch. You want us to be active, healthy, and happy. And most of the time, that’s just fine. But sometimes circumstances are beyond our control, and not only should we not be made to feel guilty about it, but more to the point, we should not be forcing ourselves into action when it would be actively detrimental to our health.

So now, as many people around the world may be sick (hopefully only mildly) or stuck in their houses, perhaps it’s time to think about dialing back on this a bit. To that end, a couple of suggestions about how to adapt the Apple Watch’s activity tracking features.

First, the Apple Watch activity alerts should allow an option to tell the watch that you’re under the weather.1 That should reduce the number of nagging reminders for you to be active during the day, without tempting us to rip our watches from our wrist and fling them across the room. (Yes, you can turn off all activity-related notifications, but that’s inconvenient and perhaps overkill for a few days.)

Bug someone else, I’m busy.

Secondly, I propose some form of “streak forgiveness.” Many of us are devoted to closing our rings every day, and it’s a real bummer when illness gets in the way. So you should be able to mark that you’re sick and take a day or two off without affecting your overall fitness streak.

“But surely people will use that to cheat!” I can hear you exclaiming.

Friends, there’s no prize here. (Okay, yes, there are those medals you get for completing challenges, but I hate to be the one to break it to you: they’re just pixels on a screen.) We’re all doing this voluntarily, because we want to be healthy and active–the only person you’re cheating if you were to abuse this feature is yourself. And if you want to cheat yourself, who is Apple to get in the way? If it’s that much of a concern, put an asterisk next to it. This isn’t the Houston Astros, folks.

For those who partake in activity competitions, since your points are based on how much you actually move, then you wouldn’t get any extra points anyway. But again, those competitions are totally voluntary, and you’re not competing in an Olympic event.

It’d be great to see a feature of this sort in watchOS 7 or, hey, sooner. Apple should at the very least consider letting you temporarily mute the Activity reminders for a preset amount of time. Because we all want to be getting out more–it just may not be our fault if we can’t.

  1. Colloquially, I refer to this as the “[expletive] off, I’m sick!” button. 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at or reach him by email at His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is out now.]

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