Activity App: Changing walking distance from kilometers to miles

Posted on by Mike Evans

 HEALTH is where it's at, not Activity, nor on the Watch settings

HEALTH is where it's at, not Activity, nor on the Watch settings

Changing from kilometers to miles on the Apple Watch is a major challenge. It isn't easy, but I've discovered how to do it.

Reader Janice wrote to say that since updating her iPhone to iOS9 the walking distances in Activity and on the Apple Watch had changed from miles to kilometers. She had tried everything to find an option to change back but without success.

Janice had trawled through the Apple community forums but there appeared to be no consensus on how to do this. Several helpful souls suggested that the unit of measurement in Activity is governed by the international settings on the iPhone. Some thought Apple had decided that all UK international settings would default to metric measurements.

None of this is true, of course. Apple would not make this fundamental mistake. As British readers will attest, we have a complete mishmash of weights and measures in this country. Thirty years ago we sort of half changed over but traditionalists fought tooth and nail to retain some Imperial measurements. As a result, we are left in limbo between good old Imperial and upstart metric. The Canadians, the Australians, the New Zealanders and others did it the easy way by changing quickly and they are now fully metric. Here we have a generational difference and endless confusion. 

We drive miles along the road, with speed limit signs correspondingly in miles, while the distance to the next junction is measured in yards. Yet when we stop for fuel it is liters we put in the tank, not the old-fashioned gallons. We still insist on talking about miles per gallon. To this day I have only a hazy notion of the relative credentials of various litres-per-hundred-kilometer measurements. It’s a complete shambles and Apple people know this. After all, they have no less a person that Jony Ive to keep them up to date on British eccentricities.

No, the answer is actually quite simple. Apple's only crime is in not making it more obvious. Janice is right that there is no way of changing the units on the Watch or in the Activity app on the iPhone. Instead, as I discovered, the option is buried confusingly in yet another app, Health. Here's what to do if you find yourself in a similar position:

Open Health on the iPhone and follow these steps:

  • Select Heath Data
  • Select Fitness
  • Select Walking and Running Distance
  • Change the last option in the list—UNIT—from km to mi

Judging by the community forums, no one seems to have figured this out. It is quite unlike Apple to make things this difficult and if it hadn’t been for the fact that I was convinced the adjustment would be somewhere I might never have had the patience to find it..