Apple-Watch-Wheelchair-FitnessIt can already count every step of a foot, and soon the Apple Watch will be able to track every roll of a wheel. At its annual Worldwide Developer Conference on June 13, tech giant Apple announced it will be debuting an innovative new fitness tracking feature on the Apple Watch for wheelchair users.

Set to be released later this year with its WatchOS 3.0 free update, the activity app will allow wheelchair users to track distance, speed and calories burned while wheeling their chairs. The watch already has a “time to stand” reminder allowing standing breaks for walkers and runners but will add a “time to roll” feature prompting wheelchair users to wheel or spin their chairs around regularly.

“As a wheelchair user it can be difficult to accurately track my activity level, so I am very excited about the new wheelchair settings on Apple Watch,” said Challenged Athletes Foundation Director of Programs Dawna Callahan. “Now I’ll get credit for all of my activity throughout the day, whether it’s walking my dogs or training in my racing chair.”

To gather data and ensure the app is most effective, Apple partnered with two groups that encourage physical fitness within the disability community, the Lakeshore Foundation of Birmingham, Alabama, and the Challenged Athletes Foundation based in San Diego, California. Approximately 300 wheelchair users took part in more than 3,000 hours of activity research for the project.

Close-up-Apple-WatchBecause past scientific studies on fitness trackers have never included wheelchair users, Apple had the difficult task of creating new formulas to determine how a wheelchair user’s activity burns calories. Surfaces that are harder or easier to push on such as hardwood floors or a bumpy dirt path, different seat and wheel heights, expending more energy to push up an incline or less energy rolling down a hill and a specific disability’s activity levels were just some of the factors that were measured.

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