Active Calories vs. Total Calories on Apple Watch: What’s the Difference? (2022)

By breaking down active calories vs. total calories, the Apple Watch provides accurate data to help you reach your health and fitness goals.

The Apple Watch is an excellent tool to help you achieve your fitness goals. When you track your daily exercise, it’s important to keep an eye on active calories versus total calories. These numbers are good indicators of your physical activity. They let you know how many calories burned come from exercise and how many come from resting. With this information, you can easily adjust your routine to make sure you keep closing those rings. 

Related: 12 Ways to Save Apple Watch Battery Life

What’s the Difference Between Active Calories & Total Calories?

Active calories come from physical activity. When you run, walk, or swim your body burns calories faster than when you’re resting. But sitting on the couch also burns calories. This is why total calories includes those burned through physical activity plus the ones your body burns just by doing its natural processes.

What Are Active Calories on the Apple Watch?

Active calories tell you how much energy you’ve burned through exercise. To help you reach your health and fitness goals, this information is easy to find on your Apple Watch:

  1. Launch your Activity app.
  2. Swipe or scroll down using the Digital Crown. The Move section shows the number of active calories burned out of your daily active calorie goal.

What Are Total Calories on the Apple Fitness App?

Total calories are the sum of active and passive calories burned throughout the day. This information is not available to view on your watch, but it’s available on your iPhone:

  1. Launch the Fitness app on your iPhone.
  2. On the Summary screen, tap on your Activity section.

    Move section shows active calories burned
  3. The Move section shows active calories burned right below your rings.
  4. Total calories burned appear at the left bottom corner of the Move section.

How Are Apple Watch Total Calories Calculated & Are They Accurate?

To calculate total calories burned, your Apple Watch uses the personal information you provide in your Health app profile. This includes age, gender, height, weight, and mobility data. For the most accurate calculations, including making sure you get credit for the right number of exercise minutes, here’s how make sure your information is up to date:

  1. Launch the Watch app on your iPhone.
  2. Scroll down and tap on Health.

  3. Select Health Details.
  4. In the Health Details screen, tap Edit to change any information you wish to update.

  5. Tap Done when you’ve finished updating your personal information.

With up to date personal information, your Apple Watch calculates your body’s Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). These are the calories that your body burns while at rest. It then adds the active calories from exercise to give you an accurate estimate of the total calories you burn during the day. To learn more, check out our article on how accurate Apple Watch calories are and how to improve their accuracy

By breaking down active calories vs. total calories, the Apple Watch provides accurate data to help you reach your health and fitness goals. With this information, you can make better decisions regarding exercise and see faster results.

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Author Details

Erin MacPherson's picture

Author Details

Erin MacPherson

Erin is a Web Editor for iPhone Life and has been a writer, editor, and researcher for many years. She has a degree in communication with an emphasis on psychology and communication, and has spent many of her professional years as a coach in various business and specialty fields. Erin officially joined the ranks of iPhone and Apple users everywhere around nine years ago, and has since enjoyed the unique and customized feel of Apple technology and its many gadgets. When she’s not working, Erin and her son enjoy outdoor adventures, camping, and spending time with their eclectic collection of pets.