Forget Apple Watch 9 - these watchOS 10 fitness features instantly upgrade older models

watchos 10
(Image credit: Future)

The Apple Watch Series 9 turned out to be a bigger upgrade than many leakers were predicting, with the new model packing a faster processor, a brighter screen, enhanced tracking with its new UWB chip and the ability to control functions with a tap of the fingers 

Combined with watchOS 10, which the wearable arrives with, it makes for quite a compelling package. But if you’re already wearing an Apple Watch on your wrist, you may want to think twice about upgrading, as the operating system update is coming to most older models this fall.

Not every model is supported, but as long as you have 2018’s Apple Watch Series 4 or later, you should be all set. 

Here are five big fitness features that’ll breathe new life into your older Apple Watch.

Cycling is now a live activity

a photo of cycling features on watchOS 10

(Image credit: Apple)

The Apple Watch has always been great at tracking bike rides, but with both hands on the handlebars, it can be tricky to stay on top of your performance.

With watchOS 10, cycling is now a Live Activity on your connected iPhone. That means you can mount your handset on your handlebars and get a full-screen, real-time view of metrics like Heart Rate Zone, Elevation, Race Route and Speed. 

Bluetooth connectivity for cyclists 

Cycling metrics tracked by Bluetooth accessories

(Image credit: Apple)

Another boon for riders is the additional support for Bluetooth-enabled cycling accessories both for indoor and outdoor workouts. 

Power meters, speed sensors and cadence sensors are all supported by watchOS 10, allowing for brand-new trackable metrics such as cycling power, cadence and power zones.

Apple promises that its new algorithms can combine sensor data from the Apple Watch and a connected power meter to estimate your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) — the level of intensity a human can theoretically maintain for an hour’s ride. 

Additional compass and map support for hikers

a photo of hiking features on WatchOS 10

(Image credit: Apple)

Hikers haven’t been forgotten with the watchOS 10 update, and one update could be a potential lifesaver. The compass app is being updated with a feature that will create a waypoint of where you last had cellular reception. That means that if you need assistance, you can retrace your steps to the last place where you were still on the grid.

If you’re in the US, you’re also going to get a big upgrade to Apple Maps on the watch, with a new topographical map showing contour lines, hill shading, details about elevation and local points of interest. You’ll be able to search nearby trail routes with useful cards containing information on length, type and difficulty. 

New mindfulness measurement

The Apple Watch has historically done a good job of nudging people towards better physical health habits, and with the mindfulness app update, Apple is looking to similarly boost mental health.

With watchOS 10, Apple has introduced a discrete and convenient way for users to log their emotions and daily moods. Just turn the Digital Crown to scroll through shapes to best represent their feelings, pick what’s having an impact and describe your feelings. 

Extras for Apple Fitness Plus subscribers

watchOS 10 Smart Stacks

(Image credit: Apple)

If you subscribe to Apple Fitness Plus, you’re getting some nice extras made possible by watchOS 10, too.

Custom plans deliver workout or meditation plans tailored to a user's needs, while Stacks (shown above) lets Apple Watch owners queue up multiple workouts and meditations to do back to back. Finally, Audio Focus now lets you pick which sound to boost — your trainer’s instructions, or your workout playlist. 

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.