Closing Activity rings on the Apple Watch takes a lot more effort than it did just a couple of weeks ago, as widespread shelter-in-place policies are keeping many of us in our homes. Chances are you’d had a morning where your Apple Watch’s display looks like the one in the photo above. You’re most likely to feel the sting if you were on a weight loss program or had a consistent fitness routine, but many of the rest of us simply miss the satisfaction of the little tap that let us know we’d accomplished a clear goal each day.

Fortunately—if you’re willing to change your standards—it’s still possible to close your rings in order to achieve a degree of certainty in these uncertain times. Now, will you come out of it in as good as shape as you were before the coronavirus? 

After all, right now, you can devote much of your free time to meeting your goals. But if you’re looking for a daily reward that’s more mental than physical at a time when many gyms and parks are closed, I've found this is a decent way to go about it.

A couple of things first. You’re likely still allowed to go outside and take walks on empty paths or in local parks. You can close your rings that way, but keep in mind that the risk of contagion goes down if everyone stays home. Second, you’re probably not going to have any trouble closing your rings if you have exercise equipment in your home—and more power to you if you do.

Some of you might recognize the suggestions below as variations on the “cheats” for gaming your activity rings that circulated when the Apple Watch first came out, but in 2020, I prefer to think of them more positively. Provided you don’t try to close your Move ring simply by swiping your arm back and forth while vegging out in an armchair—which is actually possible—these can serve as foundations for healthy practices in these limiting times.


Apple Watch and activity tracking: 5 things you need to know ... 

How to close your Exercise ring

The Exercise ring sounds like it would be the hardest ring to close. Unless you start a workout, the ring closes by determining how much your heart rate goes above a value determined by factors like your age or weight. Keep up that heart rate for 30 minutes, and your green ring will close. It’s a lot easier than it probably sounds. Before the pandemic, my Apple Watch would normally ask me if I wanted to log my daily walk to work from the train station as an Outdoor Walk workout, and doing that twice a day would almost always close the ring.

But it gets even simpler. You can quickly close your Exercise ring by opening the Workout on your Apple Watch and then scrolling down to the bottom and tapping Add Workout. Tap Other in the screen that pops up, and set it for an open goal. Just keep that running for 30 minutes, and your Exercise ring will close. To give you an idea of how well it works, I closed my activity right while writing this story. As a bonus, the Move ring also closes a little more quickly while a workout is running.

You can pair this “Other” workout with household chores if you wish, but closing the ring doesn’t have to be that simple. Even if you don’t feel comfortable about going outside—and honestly, we caution against it unless you’re in a rural area—you can get a decent 30-minute workout just by performing some old exercise standbys like pushups, sit-ups, and burpees. (If you add a Workout for “High Intensity Interval Training,” your Apple Watch will usually correctly log such activities.) For a more guided workout, gyms and similar fitness organizations are currently offering a lot of their normally paid online training services for free, and you can check out some of those in the last section.


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How to close your Stand Ring

Traditional outdoor and gym-based exercises might not be safe options right now, but really, you should at least be getting up and moving around. As such, closing your Stand ring is especially important at a time when so many people are stuck indoors. This ring can be tricky: I’ve gone on 12-mile hikes where I’ve tripled my Move goal, and I still didn’t close my Stand ring at the end of the day. Also, if you have access to an adjustable standing desk, now would be a great time to use it.

Closing your Stand ring might not be much of a big deal if you haven’t turned off the Apple Watch’s annoying reminders to stand every hour. This is an especially good time to keep those on, but you can turn them off by going to the Watch app on your iPhone and then pressing Notifications, then Activity, and then turning off Stand Reminders.

Yet here’s the thing: All you need to do in order to close your Stand ring every hour is get up and walk around for a minute or two for at least 12 hours a day. It helps to move your arms around in the process.

Anyone want an easier way of closing your Stand ring? Raise your hands—and keep them up. If you raise your arms and wave them around a bit for two minutes every hour, you can sometimes close your Stand ring without even leaving the couch. But seriously, get up and walk around a bit.


Apple Watch activity tracking: 5 tips you need to know!

How to close your Move ring

If you’re keeping your arms in motion during one of these standing breaks, you should manage to close a bit of your Move ring as well. Also, the Move ring is the only activity ring you can adjust, and in normal times I keep it set to a manageable 800 calories. Considering how that amount is a little ambitious for many of us right now, your best best for closing it would be to temporarily lower your daily move goal unless you have home access to equipment like a treadmill.

To do this, simply go to the Activity app on your Apple Watch, press firmly on the ring interface, and then press Change Move Goal when the option pops up on the display. Experiment with what’s manageable.

This is cheap, but if you change the goal to the calorie amount you’ve already achieved for the day, your Move ring will automatically close. As a reminder, the Move ring closes faster during a workout.


Some additional tips

Again, these tips may have their origins in cheats, but please, don’t spend these weeks vegging on the couch and closing your rings by just waving your arms in the air every hour. That’s just sad.

Instead, use these tips as a complement to all the free resources that are suddenly available now that gyms and other fitness organizations are adjusting to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. Daily Burn, for instance, is offering 60-day free trials for all of its classes. If you go to Gold’s Gym’s website, you can get its Amp digital personal trainer app for free until May 31 if you use the code FIT60. You can also learn yoga exercises for free from Core Power Yoga, and there’s a wealth of stay-at-home fitness videos on YouTube.

And again, at the bare minimum, get down and partake in some time-honored equipment-free exercises like push-ups and sit-ups. If you’re in a place where it’s comparatively safe to jog or take a walk—and please, don’t interpret that too liberally—do that.

Most of us aren’t able to close our rings as easily as we were as recently as last month, but with these little adjustments, you can still use your Apple Watch to feel a little satisfaction at the end of the day. If you feel like you’re being a little too easy on yourself, go ahead and bump up that Move goal. And if you combine these tips with good exercise habits, there’s even a good chance that you’ll come out of this even better than you started.