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Active calories vs Total calories on Apple Watch: 3 Key Differences

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  • 3 min read

Wearable gadgets have changed how we keep track of our physical activity, and one standout choice in this category is the Apple Watch. It provides various metrics to assist users in managing their fitness objectives. However, two main measurements often analysed are active calories and total calories.

In this article, we have discussed Active and Total calories and three key differences between them.

What are Active Calories?

Active calories represent the energy your body uses during physical activities like exercise, movement, or any intense actions beyond your basic metabolic rate (BMR).

The Apple Watch figures out this metric by considering your heart rate and motion data collected through its sensors. These calories are the ones you expend when engaged in workouts or daily activities that involve more than just resting.

What are Total Calories?

Total calories comprise the energy used during active movements and the calories burned while at rest, often called basal metabolic rate (BMR). Your BMR represents your body’s energy when you’re not active, doing essential things like breathing, circulating blood, and maintaining a steady temperature.

Total calories consider all the energy your body expends, whether through activity or while at rest, throughout the day.

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Key differences

Here are the three key differences between Active Calories and Total Calories:

  • Purpose: Active calories measure the energy burned during deliberate physical activities like workouts or brisk walks, giving users a clearer understanding of their exertion during exercise sessions. Conversely, total calories provide a comprehensive outlook on overall energy usage, combining both active and resting calorie burn.
  • Contextual meaning: Active calories assist users in evaluating how effective specific workouts or active periods are, motivating them to meet activity targets and track progress in their fitness routines. Meanwhile, total calories offer a comprehensive view of daily energy balance, considering both activity and the body’s basic metabolic needs.
  • Accuracy and Precision: Active calories are more accurate in reflecting the immediate impact of your actions, as they directly correlate with physical movements and changes in heart rate. In contrast, total calories are a combination of various factors, including BMR estimations, which can differ among individuals and may be less precise in capturing immediate efforts.
AspectActive CaloriesTotal Calories
DefinitionCalories burned during intentional physical activityDirect correlation between physical movements and HR
Calculation BasisMore precise in reflecting the immediate impactCombination of factors, including BMR estimations
PurposeMeasure energy expenditure in specific activitiesProvide a comprehensive view of overall expenditure
Contextual meaningAssess workout effectiveness and progressOffer a holistic perspective on daily energy balance
Accuracy and PrecisionMore precise in reflecting immediate impactMore precise in reflecting the immediate impact

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Akash Singh

Akash Singh

Akash is a law graduate who likes to go for bike rides on the weekends soul-searching for answers to his many existential questions. You can contact him here: