Apple Watch Now Tracks Time Spent in the Sun

2 min read

Oct. 12, 2023 -- Even though humans need sunlight for optimal health, less than 20% of people get outside every day for fun activities or relaxation, according to the 2021 General Social Survey.

Now the same smartwatch that records your steps and sleep can also track your time in the sunshine.

“Apple’s Time in Daylight feature uses the watch’s ambient light sensor, as well as its GPS and motion sensors, to detect whether a person is outside. Clouds, shade and even a long-sleeve shirt can affect results,” The Washington Post reports. “The feature is available on Apple Watch Series 6 or later models.”

Sunshine improves the body’s production of vitamin D, which helps make your bones stronger, regulates circadian rhythm, reduces eyestrain, and improves alertness and mood by increasing serotonin levels, The Washington Post says.

“We are finding more and more data for sunlight having significant systemic health benefits,” said Richard Weller, a professor of dermatology at the University of Edinburgh.

From an evolutionary standpoint, human beings are “used to” spending most of their time outside. It’s only been different since the Industrial Revolution.

JoAnn Manson, MD, a professor at Harvard Medical School, says even 15 minutes a day two or three times a week is enough to boost vitamin D production to meet recommendations. 

The amount of sunshine needed is different among individuals. Factors affecting sunshine exposure and absorption include skin complexion, clothing, location, and more. Fair-skinned people might need just 15 minutes a day, while those with darker skin tones may need much longer.

Apple says it added Time in Daylight to make people aware of their time spent indoors on nearsighted activities such as looking at their devices. The Washington Post reported that studies have shown children who spend more time outside are less likely to develop nearsightedness.