S Health on the Note 4

It won't make you get off the couch, but S Health can be a useful tool

S Health has been around for some time on Samsung phones, but it was only with the inclusion of more finely-tuned sensors and a full-blown heart rate monitor on the latest devices that made it a really valuable tool for tracking your health and fitness data. While the options for choosing a third-party system — often paired with a hardware fitness tracker — are still out there, S Health is bundled with every Note 4 and will cover the bases for most people who want to keep track of their health.

Just like any other health and fitness app available today S Health is really only useful when you have it set up correctly and are making the most of it — we're going to show you how to do just that.

Read now: Get the most out of S Health on your Note 4

You've gotta set it up first!

S Health setup

The technology behind the S Health app is pretty impressive, but it can't do a whole lot if you don't get it started with some basic information about yourself. First, find the S Health app in your app drawer and launch it — you'll be asked to agree to terms of use and then you're ready to go.

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To get the most out of S Health, on the next screen you'll want to sign into your Samsung Account for backup and sync. If you don't yet have a Samsung Account (it's quite useful to have one on a Galaxy device) you can set one up right from the app. After signing in you can set up auto backup — including how often data is backed up and whether or not it's restricted to Wifi only. We recommend allowing auto backup just in case you ever lose your phone, but also so that you can restore the data to a different phone or keep things in sync if you use two devices concurrently.

Next you'll be asked to create a profile. This is very important, as S Health bases its recommendations and calculations based on the profile. You'll enter your name, age, height, weight and average weekly activity level here. Fill these out as accurately as you can, it'll make a world of difference when it comes to future planning and accurate reporting. And don't worry, you can update your profile at any time from the settings if your weight happens to change.

Show the pedometer on your lock screen and home screen

S Health widgets

Of all the powerful things that S Health can do, the simplest is act as a pedometer to track your steps while you have the Note 4 (or a connected Gear accessory) with you. To turn on the pedometer, hop into S Health and tap the Pedometer icon in the bottom-left corner of the home screen — here you can set your step goal (10,000 per day by default) and see how far you've walked that day.

Once you have the pedometer set up how you want it, you can then track your progress without opening the S Health app by enabling an S Health widget and putting the pedometer information on the lock screen. To enable the pedometer on your lock screen, go to Settings, then Lock screen, Show information and check Pedometer. And to show your step count on your home screen, you'll want to add one of the 4x1 S Health widgets to your launcher. (Note: Not all widgets may be available if using a third-party launcher — you may be restricted to a simple 2x1 Pedometer widget.)

Now with both the lock screen and widget information, you'll always be able to keep up on your step count at a glance, leaving you to only dive into the S Health app when you want more detailed information. It's a small thing, but having that information there for motivation and reassurance — without launching a separate app — is great.

Track your activity and set goals

S Health

Some people are going to want to go beyond just entering their basic data and tracking daily steps, and S Health is up to the task. The app is set up to track running, walking, cycling and hiking — just tap the Exercise button at the bottom of the main screen and get started. Within each activity category you'll be able to select a goal — basic, distance, time, calorie or training — and finely set the parameter for the one you choose.

Once you have your exercise type chosen and your goal set, you can choose whether or not you want audio from your phone while it's with you tracking the activity. By default "Audio guide" is turned on, which will give you information during your activity — like distance, pace, etc. — without having to look at the phone. You can also choose to play back local music, though most folks will probably choose to play their own streaming music separately. Once you get in the habit of tracking your runs, hikes or rides it'll provide valuable information for tracking your fitness over time.

Being healthy isn't all about exercise, though, as you've gotta keep up on your food intake as well. While there's no perfect system for tracking what you eat, S Health lets you do it if you're committed to entering everything. There's a very basic interface of adding breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for each day, but it's all manual entry of the ingredients in the food you ate. Manual entry of food items will never be a perfect solution, but it can be done if you want to go all-in here. To help you keep up on things you can also take a picture of your meal and create "favorites" that you can automatically recall if you eat them again.

If you are interested in watching your progression, you can also choose to enter your weight and sleep on a daily basis, though these are probably a bit more on the fringe side of things for most people.

Consider using the 'Coach' feature if you need more help

S Health Coach on the Note 4

Setting goals and tracking your progress in terms of exercise and food is important, but it really unlocks the capabilities of the "Coach" area of S Health. Powered by Cigna, the S Health Coach looks at your regularly tracked data and offers up suggestions on how you can improve yourself through different methods. Tap the Coach icon on the main screen, and you'll see options to let Coach analyze your exercise, food, sleep, stress and weight.

You can choose to have Coach analyze any combination of the different areas, and it'll pull in tracking data to give you an overall assessment of how you're shaping up against recommended parameters. If you don't have tracking data in S Health already you can go through each section and answer a variety of questions about your habits, and then let it do the assessment from that information. At the end you'll get a report on that area, with a rank from zero to 100, and be given guidance on creating goals to improve.

For example in exercise you'll be given recommendations on different workouts, stretching routines or ways to stay active. The Exercise and Food sections of Coach are the most useful considering they have the most recommendations available, whereas the Sleep, Stress and Weight ones aren't always applicable to everyone and have fewer points of guidance.

Coach is a pretty powerful tool, particularly if you're all-in with S Health, and while you may not want to follow it point-for-point it can help you get a feel for what you should be doing on a regular basis and a new ideas for achieving those goals.

In the end, this is a tool — it's all about what you do with it!

S Health

Whether you're using S Health or some other tracking app, the help it provides is only as useful as the information you put into it. You need to think of S Health as a tool — it won't do anything for you unless you use it properly and completely. The nice thing about S Health is the ability to pick and choose which parts you want to use, maybe starting with the pedometer, then exercise tracking, then food and finally the Coach.

If you want to start taking control of your health, S Health is there to help. Spend the appropriate amount of time setting it up and using it regularly, and you'll reap the rewards in the future.