There are several ways I could’ve spent my Sunday — cleaning up my apartment, meeting friends for brunch, rotting on the couch for 10 hours of football — but instead I decided to walk from the top of Manhattan to the bottom of Manhattan. You know, just for fun.
As someone who tests all the best smartwatches, I knew the Apple Watch Ultra 2 would be a solid contender for keeping up with the 15-mile trek. Apple’s latest-gen sports watch not only has a thorough workout tracking and a dual-frequency GPS system; it has a brighter always-on display for following my activity data even on the very sunny day I set out on my walking challenge, too. Which, again, I just thought I’d do “for fun.”
Now, the blisters and aches acquired from hours of walking New York City’s sidewalks didn’t feel so fun afterwards. But, reaching nearly 35,000 steps (as recorded by my Apple Watch Ultra 2) is an accomplishment. The experiment also demonstrated several of the benefits of wearing an Apple Watch for walking workouts, especially long-distance ones.
Making my walk convenient
Believe it or not, I forgot to launch my walking workout on my Apple Watch Ultra 2 outside Dyckman Ave station at the top of Manhattan. Maybe I didn’t walk to think about all the steps I had ahead, or maybe the caffeine hadn’t kicked in yet, but recording the walk when I started slipped my mind. Luckily, with automatic workout tracking, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 buzzed my wrist about 15 minutes later asking me whether I was walking.
I was holding a much-needed Starbucks latte in my non-watch hand, so instead of switching it over to my watch hand to tap the ‘Record Workout’ button, I used Double Tap to initiate recording. Double Tap, available with the latest public beta version of watchOS 10, lets you tap your index finger and thumb on your watch hand twice to carry out certain actions more conveniently.
My watch retroactively tracked my movement, so upon officially starting the workout, I already had banked ¾ of a mile. From that point on, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 tracked my time, calories, steps, pace, heart rate zones for the rest of the day.
Recording my steps
While following my distance traveled helped me understand my progress (a.k.a. how much further I had to go) I preferred to keep an eye on my step count during the day. But, you might know that there’s not a native Apple Watch complication that shows you your step count on your watch face. Knowing how to see your step count on your Apple Watch face, though, I used a third-party Apple Watch app to watch my step count grow.
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 recorded 35,015 steps total. My colleague previously walked 11,000 steps with Apple Watch Ultra 2 and Apple Watch Series 9, and found that both of Apple’s current-gen smartwatches offer accurate step count estimates. But they also found that the step count is most accurate when the watches are paired to an iPhone’s GPS, so I made sure I had my iPhone 15 Pro Max powered on during my journey.
My colleague walked 8,000 steps with Apple Watch Ultra 2 and Garmin Forerunner 265, too. They found that the Garmin Forerunner 265, the best Garmin watch overall, is slightly more accurate and half the price of the Apple Watch Ultra 2. This is worth keeping in mind if you’re looking for a step-counting smartwatch based on accuracy.
Rewarding my hard work
One of the most underrated benefits of wearing an Apple Watch for exercise is badge collection. In fact, checking available badges to earn is my favorite Apple Watch fitness feature you're probably not using.
I felt the physical reward of making it to Battery Park as the sun started to set, with a clear view west of the Statue of Liberty. I earned digital rewards, too. When I finally hit “End Workout” after more than 6 hours of walking, a flurry of badges appeared on my wrist. I received a 200% Move Goal badge, indicating I had at least doubled my goal calorie burn for the day. I also achieved a new walking workout record and a new exercise record.
Gamification isn’t for everyone, but for me, wanting to collect badges inspires me to step outside of my comfort zone in terms of activities. Going for a 15-mile walk definitely falls in that category, and while I don't have any intention of doing it again, the prospect of earning a badge might convince me otherwise.