Google Fit is getting redesigned with new health-tracking rings

Google Fit redesign.
Google

Today, Google is rolling out a complete redesign of the Google Fit app for Android and the Fit section of the Wear OS app on iPhone. The new design focus is on closing rings, much like Apple (and everybody else). Google says that its rings are informed by health recommendations from the American Heart Association (AHA) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Every day, users will be encouraged to complete two goals: one based on “move minutes” and another based on a new thing called “heart points.”

Those metrics are an attempt to “abstract away the complication” of fitness tracking, says Margaret Hollendoner, senior product manager for Google Fit. “Move minutes” is meant to be a better metric than simple steps because it can capture several different activities since walking “might not be a great option” for some people.

“Heart points” is a little more abstract, but it’s designed to encourage people to engage in activities that will still get their heart rate up but don’t necessarily require a trip to the gym. “It’s as simple as picking up the pace when you’re walking,” Hollendoner says.

With both metrics, Fit will attempt to use as many sensors as are available to it and estimate the rest. If you use a Wear OS watch, it can track your heart rate directly and also automatically detect when you start exercising. Fit won’t require a Wear OS watch, but it definitely works better with one. It can also work with health data from other devices that are compatible with Fit.

As with all tech companies, Google is careful not to cross the line into making actual health claims with Google Fit. Instead, it is saying that it worked with the AHA and WHO to set up Fit so that it can help users track their progress toward achieving the physical activity guidelines the groups recommend.

Those goals are roughly 150 minutes of “moderate” activity per week and 75 minutes of “vigorous” activity. So the move minutes track daily progress to moderate activity. Heart points track toward the vigorous activity goal, but the “points” abstraction means that Fit can award more points for heavy exercise while also still rewarding less strenuous activity. (Fit will still show users more traditional metrics like step counts and estimated calories burned.)

In any case, the Fit app will start every user with goals it thinks are appropriate and move them up as they achieve more. Hollendoner says the system will offer suggestions within the app. For example, it might suggest that you only need another 20 minutes of exercise to hit a weekly goal, even if you missed your rings earlier in the week. In other words: Fit will try to help you alter your behavior, but it might make you feel a little less bad when you take a rest day.

Patrick Wayte, SVP for the center for health tech at AHA, says his organization’s contribution to the new system was more of an “active collaboration” or an “alignment exercise” than a full-on partnership with Google. The AHA’s recommendations will appear directly inside Fit if users go looking to see exactly what these Heart Points are all about. “This gives us an opportunity to get people oriented around the science,” Wayte says. He hopes that Fit’s coaching for users will “increasingly align them to the guidelines” the AHA recommends for physical activity.

Beyond the new metrics, the Fit app has generally been cleaned up, modernized, and simplified. When either the Heart points or Move rings are completed in the app, they’ll turn into an octagon. (Hollendoner calls it a “jewel shape.”) The Wear OS app will be updated as well, including those new rings.

A journal tab can show maps of previous runs and bike rides, track heart rates over time, and more. Users will have a setup process, but Google will take on more of the work to help them set goals over time. A floating “plus” button allows users to set up custom exercise routines.

Google has a lot of work ahead of it now as it fights to gain relevancy in a health tech conversation completely dominated by the Apple Watch and Fitbit. On its own, the new version of Fit seems nice but certainly not enough to pull mindshare away. That will probably require new WearOS smartwatches, and we should be seeing some of those come out later this year.

Comments

I’ve found activity tracking more useful to look back at activity over a longer timescale than a day-to-day guilt-trip. I can see how my activity level correlates to different times in my life and times across the year and I can make adjustments from there. If I focus too much on what I do on any specific day, it just makes me feel bad.
However, I like the idea of including ‘days off’ in goals. That’s going to help me.

I’ve found activity tracking more useful to look back at activity over a longer timescale than a day-to-day guilt-trip. I can see how my activity level correlates to different times in my life and times across the year and I can make adjustments from there. If I focus too much on what I do on any specific day, it just makes me feel bad.

Absolutely the right approach. Trying to be more healthy is a lifestyle choice, not about slavishly trying to achieve short term targets.

I’ve lost about 40 pounds since Christmas, and I’ve used a couple of apps along the way to help me, including Google Fit, MyFitnessPal, and MapMyFitness. They’re a useful way of observing and establishing trends; how many calories a day do I need to lose a pound a week or maintain my current weight? How did a tweak to my diet affect me over the course of a month or two? And so on.

Trying to micro-manage fitness on a day-by-day basis is just a surefire way to get discouraged. But these apps can be useful as a medium to long-term dashboard.

Same. As a wear os user I’m excited by this update. Especially for the Pixel Watch this fall

How can a company who’s sole missing is information be so horrible at data visualization?

How can people knowingly give this company information about their health and how and where they spend their time?

Every person that uses Google search is doing that. And if they are searching for health related questions well then…

I take your point. Google already scrapes all kinds of our data.

But….that doesn’t mean we have to continue this way.

Instead, I think we will be far better off in the long term to try to claw back privacy from these companies such as Google.

Im not going to go along just because everyone already has all my data. Uh uh. No way.

Polygons! Rings are so 2014.

Only you would find something negative for this

Yeah because the one comment before mine was totally positive

And… there was no negativity in my post; you simply choose to read it that way.

Valid point

To be fair those polygons look terrible.

Still no iOS app outside of Android Wear? This looks interesting, but I guess I won’t be able to try it.

Way to treat adults like children.

Way to assume that adults don’t like games!

Did anything come of the much-vaunted partnership between Google and Fitbit that was announced earlier in the year?

aren’t there rumored Google branded smartwatches supposed to be announced this year? I assume with the Pixel 3.

Maybe we’ll hear something at that point.

The article simply said Fitbit would use Google’s cloud architecture and apis to talk to hospitals. That’s not the type of thing a consumer is going to "see".

If it give me better data than Fit then great but yeah I don’t see myself ever saying the phrase "heart points" out loud.

Hmmm….maybe that’s why it’s called Google Fit

This is making me reconsider getting a Fitbit Versa and wait to see what Google announces in October.

This app update looks amazing

Apple sometime put a bunch of app update in a group and call it new ios/macos version

Google update a bunch of their apps and call them changes to Android…

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