The ultimate guide to getting fit with Samsung’s app

Samsung Health is the Korean giant’s portal into all of the health metrics you could ever want, and it really comes into its own paired with Samsung’s Gear S3, Gear Sport and Fit2 Pro.

It is mostly a rebranded and streamlined version of Samsung S Health, making it mostly familiar but also a whole lot better, rolling together a bunch of great features to help you get fit. The platform expanded on Android last year, growing integration with third-party activity tracking apps from the likes of Nokia, Strava, Under Armour, Speedo and more.

It’s obviously compatible with Samsung fitness trackers and smartwatches on Samsung phones, but Android Wear users can still sync some data over from their wearables (though it’s only through a select few third-party services). It’s also available on iOS, so if you’ve got an iPhone you’re not going to get left out.

Read next: The ultimate guide for getting fitter with Fitbit’s app

The Health app itself offers a decent selection of features for planning, tracking and reviewing your workouts. But it’s also got some ambitious ideas about health, like trying to connect you to a doctor from your phone. So whether you just want an easier way to talk to your physician, prepping for a marathon, or you’re a weight lifter or yoga enthusiast, chances are Samsung Health has a tool for you.

Here’s your guide to getting the most out of it.

Measure your vitals

Like most fitness and health platforms, you’ll have to enter some basic information about yourself. You know, like birth date, weight, height and gender. But you’ll also get to choose your activity level.

There are four: Sedentary, somewhat active, active and very active. This helps Samsung Health calibrate to what it can expect from you, essentially, but it’s also just the basics.

In Health, tracking is split into two categories: General and Exercise. You can access them all by scrolling to the bottom of the main screen and clicking “Manage Items.” General includes basic things like steps and heart rate, but it also includes a whole bunch of metrics that are tied to your overall wellbeing. This includes your weight, food, water and caffeine intake. It also includes sleep, which will tell you how long you’ve spent in light and deep sleep. If you’re wearing a fitness tracker to sleep, like the Fit2 Pro, you’ll also get ratings for your sleep quality, with Samsung calculating how many hours you actually had of good shut-eye.

But that’s not all. Samsung Health can also keep tabs on things like SpO2, which tracks the oxygen in your blood. You can get a tracker that does this or, if you have a Galaxy phone, you can just put your finger on the sensor on the back. Once you do so, it’ll ask your activity level at the time and log it.

Then there’s stress, which Samsung determines by measuring both your heart rate and SpO2, doing some math and telling you how stressed out you are. Below your stress rating, which is on a plane ranging from low to high, you’ll see the specific heart rate and SpO2 measurements.

Blood glucose and blood pressure are the other two metrics, but you’ll need a device capable of actually measuring them to plug them into Samsung Health – of course, they’re not things you can measure with most fitness trackers. However, you can manually enter these metrics in if you’re tracking them on a device that can’t talk to Samsung’s platform.

As for exercise tracking, there are a plethora of exercises to choose from. There’s the big stuff you expect, like running and cycling and swimming, but there’s also stuff you might not expect, like burpee test. There are also specific things, like planks and front arm raises.

Create training plans

Samsung Health: The ultimate guide to getting fit with Samsung's app

In Samsung world, training plans are called Programs. You can create one by heading to that same “Manage Items” screen and then looking at the “Program” menu. If you have no programs created, you can just click the “Find new Programs” option.

There are a couple of featured programs up at the top, and below that you’ll find a prompt that’ll ask for fitness instructions so that Samsung Health can recommend the right programs for you. This is super simple to do: You’re just selecting your fitness level – either beginner, intermediate or expert – and choosing your goal. There are four goals: Gaining muscle, getting toned and fit, improving balance and stability, and building endurance.

Once you’ve selected, Samsung Health will start recommending programs from partners that’ll help you achieve your goals. On the specific page of the program, you’ll see who these partners are, like Blesslife. Though be warned, sometimes clicking on these will take you to a website that may not be in your home language. I was booted to a Korean-language version of the program, for instance.

Regardless, back in the app you’ll get a quick an in-depth overview of what the program is about. It’ll tell you how many workouts it is, how many days, weeks or months it’ll take, how difficult it is, how long the average workout is, whether you need specific equipment, and the category it lives in (for instance, building muscle or improving cardio).

Below the in-depth overview you’ll see the workout schedule on a mini calendar so that you get a visual look at how long the workout will take. For example, the toned body program requires a workout every other day for a week.

If all that checks out, you can choose the start and end date of the program and have at it. Your Samsung Health dashboard will be updated with that mini calendar, showing you when your next workout in the program is. Click on it and it’ll give you full instructions on how to complete your workout. If written instructions aren’t your bag, you can easily click “download”, which’ll show you a little GIF of that specific workout. When you’re done, you just click “mark as done” and move on.

Overall, programs are divided into five categories: Building muscle, weight loss, balance training, running, and endurance training. They’re also provided by Samsung, BlessLife, and Keep. You can run multiple programs at the same time, so if you’re looking to build muscle while bulking up your endurance, have at it.

Set goals for basic workouts

Samsung Health: The ultimate guide to getting fit with Samsung's app

Even if you’re not working towards a big marathon or looking to lose weight or build balance, you can set yourself goals for activity, eating and sleep.

You may be prompted to do this when you first set up the app, but if not – or if you hurriedly skipped past everything – all you have to do is click one of the three goal circles up at the top of the dashboard. The green running man is for being active, the blue fork and knife are for eating healthier, and the crescent moon is for feeling more rested.

Click on them and you’ll be taken to a more specific goal screen. There are three categories in these goal screens: the Today screen tells you how you’re doing today; the trends screen gives you a fancy bar graph where you can track how you’ve been doing over time; and Rewards will show you if you’ve, well, got any rewards for all your tracking efforts.

Each of these screens, of course, has specific metrics for each category. For instance, food tracking will recommend how many carbs, fats and proteins you should eat in the day. The rested section will show you sleep consistency. The activity section will give you calories burned, distance and the longest time you’ve been active.

Read this: The best wearables for real-time coaching

To set or change your goals, just hit the vertical three dots up in the top right corner, then hit “View goal details.” It’s here where you’ll get to change your goals, like how many minutes of activity you need to hit, how many calories you want to scarf down in a day, and when you want to go to bed and wake up.

By the way, you can also set your targets for other metrics. For instance, you can set a blood pressure or blood glucose target in those corresponding screens. You can also set targets for caffeine and water intake. We’d recommend setting as many targets as possible so that you can use Samsung Health to get as full of a picture of your health as you can. All you have to do is click on those metrics, which are all listed down in the dashboard and, once again, click the vertical three dots in the top right corner.

If you’re looking for some guidance on where you should set your targets, be sure to click “more info” in those goal screens. They’ll let you know useful stats, like that adults are recommended to do 150 minute of moderate-intensity activity a week and 75 minutes of vigorous intensity.

Set your pace

Samsung Health: The ultimate guide to getting fit with Samsung's app

When you’re doing a cardio-based workout in Samsung Health, like running, cycling, or walking, you can choose the type of target you want to work towards. It can be distance, duration, calories, route if you’re cycling, or even just a basic workout.

However, when you’re running you get a special target: Pace. And when you choose a pace target, you’ll then be given several options. These include “Light walking coach,” “Brisk walking coach,” “Light jogging coach,” “Light running coach,” “Power walking coach,” “Calorie burning coach,” “Endurance jogging coach,” “Endurance running coach,” “Speed increasing coach,” and “Speed endurance coach.”

Each of these paces increases in difficulty. There’s a little bar below the target that’ll show you how hard it’ll get, colored in with green, yellow, red, and dark red to indicate how your pace will shape out.

If you’re more of a hands-on type and want to create your own pace, you can do that to. All you have to do is tap the left arrow until you get to “Add pace-setter.” Here, you’ll have to choose between two workout types: burn fat or cardio. Below that, you’ll see how your choice affects the pace graph.

The pace graph shows you the intensity of the workout, from warm up to cool down. A fat burning face, for instance, will see you warm up for five minutes, workout for 20, then cool down for five minutes. That workout will be a consistent pace, set at 6mph. Cardio, on the other hand, will see you slowly increase a mile an hour every three to five minutes until you hit 9mph. Then, you’ll decrease your miles per hour by one every minute until your done.

Once you choose the type of pace, you can choose your target type. Do you want to run for a distance or a duration? And within that target, how long or how far are you aiming to run? There are some options laid out, but you can also add your own.

At the very bottom, you’ll see three metrics: Estimated intensity, maximum speed and average speed. These are Samsung’s guesses for how this pace will work out for you. For instance, the intensity could be four out of five fire emojis (seriously, it uses fire emojis to measure intensity). Your maximum speed could be 8.5mph, and your average speed could be 4.9mph.

Sorry cyclists, you don’t get pace setting – but you do get route targets. All you have to do is choose route target as your target in the cycling screen, then click “import” to add GPX files (GPS data) right there into the app.

Monitor food

Samsung Health: The ultimate guide to getting fit with Samsung's app

Like most other fitness tracking apps, Health will let you manually input food. The app will also let you know what a good target is. For instance, it can recommend that your daily diet consists of 55% of carbs, 25% of fat, and 20% protein.

If you want even more detail, it can do that too. It can break down recommendations into stuff like fiber, potassium, Vitamin A and C, calcium Iron, sodium, and saturated fat. Next to these metrics, it compares how much you’ve actually ingested versus how much it recommends.

As for adding food, you do that by clicking on either the the goal circle or the food tracking icon in the bottom. Once you do, you’ll be presented with a selection of meals. These include breakfast, lunch, dinner, morning snack, afternoon snack and evening snack.

Once you click a meal you’ll get to add your food, which you can do in one of three ways. You can search for food, choose from a menu of your favorite meals (if you’ve used Samsung Health before) or create your own food in the “My Food” section. Here, you’ll be able to add the nutrients for your food manually. This is especially good for food brands that might not show up in the search.

Once you add your food, Health will automatically feed it into its system. If you forget to add something, you can always add it later. And remember, once you make a meal, you can easily re-add meals if you eat the same thing more than once. Just hit the + icon. Of course, your caloric intake will be placed in your dashboard for you to see, and it’ll measure it up against your goals so that you can keep things in line.

Social motivation

Fitbit and others have seen great success with the addition of social features, like communities and communal challenges. So why wouldn’t Samsung add a little friendly competition to its health ecosystem?

The “Together” tab is where all of this goes down. First, you’ll be greeted by a big ol’ steps leaderboard. This will show you how all Samsung Health users are doing in their step count, broken down by your age group, all users and friends. It’ll show you the average and where you rank in the pile, which in turn becomes added motivation for getting out and walking.

Below that, it’ll show you your rank. We all start out as newbies, but you can level up by challenging your friends to step battles. You choose the target goal and who you want to take on. We wish you could extend this to running, cycling and even caffeine in take and better sleep, but at least it’s one way to keep yourself fit and motivated. One note: To activate this feature, you will have to verify your number.

Ask an Expert

Samsung Health: The ultimate guide to getting fit with Samsung's app

The big new feature in Samsung Health is nestled away in the “Experts” tab. Basically, this allows you to get a video call with a doctor, giving you a telehealth experience.

This is a Samsung partnership with Amwell, with all doctors being based in the US and specially trained in telehealth programs. To get started, you just have to enroll by inputting your health insurance information.

Samsung says this feature is covered by “many top health plans” in the US, China and Korea. It can even refill your prescriptions at local pharmacies if you need to. Once you do input your insurance information, you’ll be given a deluge of information about potential doctors and clinics you can video call. For instance, you can see the price of a visit (Samsung says these are “affordable”), as well as ratings for both doctors and clinics.

The service is available 24/7, and you won’t need to make a reservation or appointment either. You just open it call, choose a doctor or clinic and start it up. These doctors, by the way, come in a range of specialities. If you need a doctor that specializes in psychology, nutrition, cardiology or more you’re covered. Samsung also promises that your health information is secure and confidential, and that the service is HIPAA compliant.

While it’s cool to automatically connect to a doctor remotely whenever you need, it’s also worth noting that, for many people, doctors are very personal choices based on comfortability and cost. You may have a doctor you trust explicitly on your current health care plan, which may make it difficult for you to check in with another doctor – or even switch insurance to use this service.

If the service is compatible with your insurance though, and you don’t mind talking to another doctor every once in a while, this service is a nice bonus feature that not many other fitness platforms are offering.

Connect apps…

Samsung Health: The ultimate guide to getting fit with Samsung's app

Samsung Health can connect to third-party apps, and that number has grown considerably since the app first arrived. You can take a look at all these apps by clicking the three vertical dots in the upper right of the dashboard, then clicking “Partner Apps”.

Once you do that, it’ll take you to what’s basically an app store. Here, you’ll be able to view and choose from a whole bunch of apps divided into a bunch of categories. These categories are fitness, nutrition, rest, healthcare, general, and other.

These apps are also labeled with the ways they can help you. For instance, Under Armour Record is labeled with exercise, sleep, sleep stages and step count. These are a good way of letting you know exactly what an app can do for you, taking out some of the guess work in downloading something, signing up and then finding out it can’t do what you need.

If you want to download an app, you just have to click on it and Samsung Health will zoom you over to the Google Play Store, where you can download it to your phone.

Once you do that, and sign in to the app, you’ll be able to add a good most of them to your Samsung Health dashboard. Health will even prompt you and let you know that you have a new option to add. Not all partner apps can be added to the dashboard, like Hydro Coach, but they can be added to the tiles down at the bottom of the dashboard.

From here, you can download many more apps to make your Health dashboard into a unified hub.

…and services…

As you may have noticed, Fitbit, Strava and some other apps aren’t available to add to the dashboard. This is a huge bummer if you use a different wearable, or are an Android Wear user, who wants to have previous tracked information sent from your wearable to Samsung Health.

While you should bear in mind that while you’re limited here by whichever app you use, there is a way to add in other services to Samsung Health. All you have to do is click those three vertical dots, click settings, then click on “Connected Services.”

Here, you’ll see Fitbit, Jawbone, Microsoft Health, Misfit, Runkeeper and Strava are available options. Clicking on these will let you integrate them on Samsung Health. However, you should keep in mind that these options also list what information is shared with Samsung Health.

For example, Fitbit only shares sleep data, while Jawbone, Microsoft Health, Misfit, and Runkeeper share both exercise and sleep data. Strava only shares exercise data. So you’re not getting a full picture, but you are at least getting some metrics.

It’s also worth noting that a lot of the data won’t move freely between the two platforms. For example, there are granular exercise data from Strava, or sleep data from Fitbit, that won’t show up in Samsung Health. Regardless, it’s worth keeping them connected for continuity sake.

…and accessories, too

Samsung Health doesn’t limit you to Samsung products to keep track of your health. If you want to see which devices you can sync to Samsung Health, turn to those trusty vertical dots and then click “Accessories.”

You’ll be taken to a new menu that’s separated by device type. These include fitness trackers, bike sensors, blood glucose monitors, blood pressure monitors, heart rate monitors, smartwatches and weighing scales. The only two categories limited to Samsung products are fitness trackers and smartwatches. However, everything else has a good selection of niche devices you can select.

You’ll be able to “Register” your device to Samsung Health from these device pages. You’ll also be given a link to the website, perhaps to purchase the device for future inclusion into your Samsung Health devices. Most of these devices use either Bluetooth or ANT+. There’s not a lot of information in these pages, but it will sometimes give you general tips if you need them.

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