Latest in Gear

Image credit: Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Google redesigns Fit to get you moving

And your heart pumping.
250 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share
Save
Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Sitting kills. Specifically, a sedentary lifestyle can kill you. Google and the American Heart Association want to save your life, or at least, encourage you to be more active. The tech giant is giving the Google Fit app its most serious overhaul since it launched in 2014, and the changes will apply to both the phone (iOS and Android) and Wear OS versions. The redesign focuses on movement and cardiovascular health, aiming to show people that it doesn't take a whole lot to meet scientifically determined weekly goals.

Gallery: Up close with the new Google Fit | 17 Photos

This isn't about buying a bunch of lycra and going to the gym, senior product manager Margaret Hollendoner told Engadget. You can meet these numbers simply by speeding up your pace when walking to the bodega or, if you're like me, breaking out into random dance sessions at home.

Instead of simply tracking your activity, the new Fit will make meeting your goals front and center. The redesigned interface is very reminiscent of the activity rings on the Apple Watch, but instead of just encouraging you to Move, Stand and Exercise, Google makes it a bit simpler.

When your Fit app updates this Friday, you'll see two concentric circles around your profile picture on the home page. The green outer circle represents your Heart points (more on these later), while the blue inner ring denotes your Move minutes. You set your daily goals for each when go through the new onboarding process, and Google will suggest a number that helps you meet the American Heart Association's recommended 150 minutes of cardio activity a week. The system will start with a low target of 75 move minutes and 10 heart points a day, then suggest you adjust it as you progress.

Meeting your movement goal is pretty straightforward - you get points for every minute you move. Heart points are slightly trickier to collect. Google awards you one for every minute you're in a moderate heart zone, and two for each minute in a vigorous cardio zone. Going for a particularly brisk walk could pump your heart up to moderate, while a kickboxing class could get you to vigorous.

It's easier to calculate this when there's a heart-rate sensor on your device. Without, Google will estimate how hard your heart worked based on what it knows -- whether it's how long you've been moving or the number of steps you took. If all it has to work with is the information you provide when entering a workout session, for example, then Fit will assign your points using average values "proven from scientific studies," said Hollendoner. "We'll mix and use whatever data we have available and do our best with that," she added.

That's not the most accurate way of awarding points, but it should at least offer some incentive for people who don't have fitness trackers to log their activity. One of Google's goals here is education, so if people at least know what they ought to do, they'll hopefully find ways to be more active throughout the day. Fit will continue to incorporate data from third-party apps like Strava, Runkeeper, Runtastic and Under Armor so you can earn points through those too. In fact, most of the functionality from the original app remains -- Fit will still automatically detect when you've started walking, running or cycling. You can still log over 120 types of workouts, too.

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

As part of its goal to educate users, Google is incorporating cards that explain things like why bursts of intense cardio activity are good for your health into the new Fit's interface. You can also look at your historical performance and how many points you earned for your previous workouts.

After you meet your goals, by the way, you can and should still keep trying to score more points. The circles will morph into hexagons once you've achieved your daily target, along with a little animation that makes the ring seem more like a jewel -- a reward for your achievement. According to the American Heart Association's vice president of policy research and translation Laurie Whitsel, you'll still see benefits if you meet up to 300 minutes of intense cardio activity per week. The app will also tell you this, and Google said test users enjoyed understanding the science behind these prescribed targets.

Of course, this is just one piece of the complex puzzle that is your overall health. There are plenty of other components like your diet, sleep and vices. But according to cardiologist and Google Fit medical lead Kapil Parakh, people who consistently meet the weekly recommended goals see their risks of heart disease and diabetes drop by 30 and 40 percent respectively. In the short term, Parakh said, people also report improvements in sleep, well-being and focus. Whitsel added that "physical activity is a magic pill. It has an impact on so many aspects of your health."

With this redesign, Fit no longer serves as just a central portal for all your fitness and health data - but it also acts as motivator and coach. It should also appeal to both fitness enthusiasts and neophytes alike. I, for one, am excited to see how much healthier Fit thinks I am the next time I complete a heart-pumping dance session or run out for an emergency cupcake.

From around the web

ear iconeye icontext filevr