Google Fit, the company’s health and fitness platform, is getting a total overhaul, bringing new features and a facelift to both smartphone and smartwatch apps.
Fit has got a little long in the tooth while competing platforms like Apple Health and Fitbit have been bulking up. In fact, this new update marks the first significant overhaul since 2014, and Google’s been working with the World Health Organization and American Heart Association to develop guidelines for getting fit.
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Google’s now created two new activity goals that help simplify your health data: Move Minutes and Heart Points. Move Minutes are pretty self-explanatory: Any movements through the day will be tracked either by your phone or smartwatch. Similar to Apple’s ‘Move’ feature, Google’s Move Minutes will nudge you to make smaller adjustments to your day to hit your goal.
Heart Points meanwhile focus on the activities that are actually getting your heart pumping, so you’ll only earn these for more moderate exercise. This will be easier to track if you have a smartwatch with a heart rate sensor, but if you don’t Google will use a combination of accelerometer and (if available) GPS data to predict the intensity of your movements. And if you happen to hit the gym without your phone or a watch, you can add the activity in after and Google will estimate how many of those Heart Points you’ve earned.
Google has drawn on recommendations from the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization to form the new goals. As Kapil Parakh, medical lead for Google Fit, told Wareable, meeting the recommended 150 minutes of activity reduces risk of heart disease by 35%, diabetes by 40% and breast and colon cancer by 20%.
The science is there, but keeping users engaged has proven to be a major problem, said Margaret Hollendoner, senior product manager for Google Fit: A large number of users interact more intermittently, and engagement tends to drop off fast. One reason for this, said Hollendoner, is that a large set of users have found the flexibility of Fit overwhelming, while the widely-embraced 10,000 step target was too daunting. And those who have been meeting the 10,000 steps haven't necessarily been getting the right amount of intense exercise to meet the recommended guidelines.
"The AHA has had the scientific guidelines since 2008 and people don't understand them, doctors don't adopt them," said Patrick Wayte, senior VP at the Center for Health Technology & Innovation at the American Heart Association. "These things don't get translated very well."
While 150 minutes is the ideal target, Google is letting users start from 75 minutes of activity a week - and work up to 300 minutes. There will also be recommendations sprinkled through the app to keep you on target.
Aside from the new features, you'll still be able to track all the same workouts from the app, some of which will be automatically tracked, as well as manually input data from blood pressure monitors, weighing scales and more. You can also still integrate apps like Strava, and you'll see these workouts in the Journal section of the app. In fact, the data shared from those apps will now contribute towards your Move Minutes and Heart Points.
The new app will behave a little differently on iPhone, which doesn't have a standalone Fit app. Instead it will live inside the Wear OS app, where you'll be able to see the same overview of your activity, but won't be able to log workouts without a Wear OS smartwatch. The update will be rolling out to all devices - Android, iOS and Wear OS - this week.
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