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Google Fit, Pros and Cons

DISCLAIMER - This post is not sponsored by Google. I am writing this of my own free will. As such I can also say negative things about Google Fit...


Okay so last week I downloaded and installed Google Fit app on to my phone. This was done very easily and the app is free.

Using GPS tracking, the app tracks how much I move and how quickly I move. It also uses the phones sensors to track movement, even if your GPS doesn't move very much.

Con - My wife complains about the idea that Google is therefore tracking my whereabouts all the time. So I had to listen to that.

My retort: If your phone is turned on and you have ANY apps that track your GPS on there, then chances are quite likely that Google, Apple and other corporations are ALREADY tracking your location. It is already there. You already agreed to it just by having your phone turned on and various apps installed.

So yes, the app tracks your speed of movement and then records it in two ways.

1. "Move Minutes" - This is basically a measurement of how much time in the day you spend actively walking about. Regular walking to the bathroom, going to the kitchen etc doesn't really count. eg. On Sunday I did 104 "Move Minutes". Doesn't seem like much, does it?

2. "Heart Points" - This is a representation of how quickly you were moving for part of that time. You accumulate heart points faster if you are walking briskly, jogging, cycling, etc. If you go too fast however, you get nothing because the app then thinks you are in a bus, car, etc - so you cannot cheat doing this.

Pro - Having the app is a good way to keep track of how much activity you are doing in terms of walking, jogging, etc. People who are into jogging, running, cycling, etc for exercise should consider using an app like Google Fit to track their fitness levels.

Pro - The app sets goals for how many daily Move Minutes and Heart Points. Thus it encourages you to reach those every day and surpass them. Or at least reach weekly or monthly goals.

So for example my current Heart Points goal is 10 per day, but that could translate into 70 per week. Since I got 22 on Sunday alone, 5 on Monday, 0 on Tuesday, and 10 so far today (Wednesday) I am already up to 37 points. To reach 70 I only need to get 33 more points during the rest of today, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. So I should be able to reach that 70 goal and surpass it easily.

You can also do the same thing with respect to the Move Minutes. My daily goal is 60 minutes, which is 420 per week. I have already reached 211, mostly due to getting 109 Move Minutes on Sunday, 57 on Monday, 13 on Tuesday, and 32 so far today (Wednesday). So I am just over halfway to my weekly goal.

I know I am taking a walk later this evening, I will be working outside Thursday, I will be going to an event Friday that involves walking, and I will be working outside again on Saturday. So I am pretty confident I will meet and beat both of my Move Minutes and Heart Points goals.

Once you meet those goals you can leave your goals as is, or you can increase them.

Pro - Being able to adjust your goals is very easy to do.

Con - You can only adjust them by 5 points or multiples of 5. You cannot pick unusual numbers like 111 or 12. They have to be rounded to the nearest 5.

So what about other kinds of exercises?

Well there is a problem.

Con - Google Fit doesn't really track exercises like weightlifting, helping a friend carry a sofa up 10 flights of stairs, doing yoga, jumping jacks, etc - because all of these actions are effectively in the same location in terms of GPS so it cannot track the intensity of those activities.




In the app it does say that it can track short strolls, dancing and yoga - but I am going to call bogus on the claim that it tracks yoga, as the person doing yoga isn't really moving their GPS much. Now the sensors in the phone can detect motions like squatting and standing up, but this kind of movement doesn't always register perfectly - and it assumes that the person is keeping their phone in their yoga pants without it falling out constantly. So yes, unless the individual has some fancy yoga pants with a pocket that never drops cellphones, that claim is utterly bogus.

For example, today I carried my 16-month-old son (who currently weighs approx. 25.5 lbs) and his baby-stroller (weight unknown) up and down two sets of stairs 6 times, while also carrying boxes of breakables (weight unknown). This was an exhausting experience.


Now while Google Fit did recognize that I was moving, effectively going for a walk during that time period, it didn't know that I was carrying any boxes or baby-strollers, carrying things up and down stairs, or pushing a baby-stroller.

Next lets talk about the Journal...

So yes, Google Fit has a Journal function which allows you to add extra notes. It automatically records your "Morning walk", "Lunch walk", "Afternoon walk", etc.

But if you want to add other activities as notes, you can do so. During which you can even add notes about your blood pressure, any changes to your weight, specific activities you did, and track your workout.

So for example I want to add "carrying boxes, baby, etc up and down stairs". Clearly that is not part of the standard list of activities, which includes things like Aerobics, Boxing, Dancing, Martial Arts, Other, Rowing, Skiing, Yoga and other activities.

So since carrying boxes/baby clearly counts as "Other" I am going to click that one. I then select the time, from 10:30 to roughly 11 AM. I give it an Activity Title of "Carrying Stuff on Stairs"...

It then asks me to mark in Notes, Calories, Steps, Kilometers - which I frankly don't know the answer to those questions. So I leave them blank.

I then save the entry.

Now I check to see what has changed.

Well for starters my Move Minutes for today is now 73 (up from 32) and my Heart Points is now 62 (up from 10).

So how did it calculate that my "Other" activity was worth an extra 41 Move Minutes and an extra 52 Heart Points? I have no freaking clue.

So...

Pro - It is possible to record extra activities on the app.

Con - You have to do it manually using the Journal, and I have no idea how accurate that is.

Also...

Con - People could cheat and just add extra activities then didn't actually do. I can see people doing this, but it is really dishonest to yourself to do it.

A person could even add mundane activities that they do daily anyway, like handwashing the dishes or giving the dog a bath. Is there some exercise involved in those activities? Yes. But it is very light exercise, and should you really be counting them? Google Fit clearly gives the user the benefit of the doubt when calculating the amount of Move Minutes and Heart Points.

52 extra heart points for adding that one activity? Yes, it was exhausting and I probably deserve it, but how did it calculate 52 as the specific number?

And because of that one activity, I have already beat my Heart Points goal for the week - it is now 89 and I only needed 70.

My Move Minutes total is now 252, so I am now well on my way to getting my 420 weekly goal.

If I added other activities I did Sunday and Monday, I could probably reach the goal today just by adding more things to the journal.

The Profile...

The Profile page allows you to edit your daily Move Minute / Heart Point goals, as well as record your sex, birthday, weight and height.

If your weight changes over time, you can go to the Home page, scroll down to Weight and click to see the chart of how your weight has fluctuated the past week, past month, past 3 months and past year.

Back to the profile page, it doesn't really do much beyond setting your goals and recording your weight changes.

Pro - Yes, you can track your weight over time.

Con - It doesn't have a clue whether you are gaining/losing fat or gaining/losing muscle weight.

Fun Fact - In terms of volume, muscle weighs more than fat. Fat takes up lots of space, whereas muscle takes up little space. So a lb of fat will take up more volume than 1 lb of muscle.

When exercising, beginners to a new activity will often gain weight (as muscle) first before losing any noticeable fat. This is confusing because they might think they are getting fatter, when in reality they are just becoming more muscular.

App Syncing

It is possible to sync Google Fit with other apps.

So for example, a recent app that was added is Pokemon Go - which encourages people to go for walks, find virtual Pokemon, go to parks / other real life locations to battle Pokemon in virtual Poke-Gyms. Essentially the game rewards players for walking, jogging, cycling, etc. Allowing the game to sync means that players can hatch eggs and accomplish walking goals without having their Pokemon Go game even turned on.

Now there are many other apps that also sync with Google Fit, including...
  • Nike+ Running
  • Adidas Train and Run
  • Strava
  • Runkeeper
  • Runtastic
  • Noom Coach
  • MyFitnessPal
  • Lifesum
  • Lose It
  • Polar
  • Basis
  • Sleep as Android
  • Withings
  • Android Wear
  • Xiaomi activity trackers
And many more. Over 80 different apps. I myself like playing Pokemon Go because it rewards you for exercising and going for walks. True, it is just virtual rewards. But that is still better than rewarding yourself with calorie rich food.

Google Fit can also sync with wearable tech, like smart watches and similar devices. In theory if there was such a device for weightlifters which measured arm / leg movement and heart rate, perhaps it could estimate how much weightlifting is actually being done. So for people into that sort of thing, perhaps there is a market for such devices.


CONCLUSIONS

Despite its downfalls, using Google Fit is still beneficial. True, you might have to spend a few minutes manually adding activities you did like weightlifting, yoga, etc, but it allows you to track how much you are walking and moving, and that alone can help you to set basic fitness goals for yourself so you can achieve specific goals.

Thus it works best for walkers, hikers, joggers and runners... but thanks to the Journal function you can still add other activities (as to the accuracy of how it calculates those activities...) so it is still usable for a variety of other activities.

eg. I won't be marking down "Teaching Archery" as an activity because that is mostly me walking back and forth with the student.

But I could add Archery whenever I do personal practice. Not sure how it will calculate that, but if all else fails I can just up my Move Minutes / Heart Points to higher goals so that it is all relative to whatever goals I set.

Thus the accuracy/inaccuracy of the minutes/points doesn't really matter. What matters more is setting the goals and then trying to achieve them.

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