For the past two years I have changed the Sports Hall and Field for the comfort of a classroom. That’s right I turned to the dark side and became a teacher of Mathematics. This has been a fantastic opportunity for me but has also presented me with some problems.
The main issue was learning a completely new subject, the second issue was my daily lack of exercise. The first I counted with a SKE course and mentoring and a lot of hard work, the second I have only just got round to correcting. This has meant that for the last 2 years I have slowly been increasing in weight and decreasing in fitness. I had a brief respite this time last year when I started training for the Bournemouth Half Marathon, but since October I have been very sedentary.
I needed help getting out of my rut and have again signed up for a run to help motivate me, this year however it is the full marathon. To help with my training and to make sure that I do not do too much to quickly(!) I wanted an app that I could use on a daily basis that would monitor all of my exercise not just when I go out running. I stumbled across Google Fit, a lesser known fitness App but one that is helping me slowly go from fat2forty.
It was at last years (2014) I\O event that Google first announced Google fit in an attempt to address the fitness void created by Apple when they released the Healthkit for iOS 8. Google Fit looks similar in some ways to Healthkit with circles that fill up as you complete exercise. It uses all of the sensors on the Android phone including the GPS signal to track the activity being undertaken.
I started using the app about two weeks ago. I entered all of my normal biometrical data and logged into my personal Google account.
I linked the app to the Runkeeper app that I normally use when running and set off on my first run of my Fat2Forty challenge. When I finished the run the first thing I noticed was that the Runkeeper app was running really slowly. I guess this is because two apps were trying to use the same data at the same time (location and GPS). When I looked at the Google fit app though all the data was there – time, distance, calories and any goals that I had achieved. It was also able to show me a detailed map of my run route on Google maps (a nice integration). The app showed me the progress that I had made in relation to my daily targets of – activity time, calories burnt, steps taken and distance travelled.
1 run in the morning had helped me put a healthy dent into my targets for the day. What I really like about the app though is that if you turn on “High Accuracy” mode the app can track all of the exercise that you complete that day. This meant that for the first time I had a app that not only was a good running companion but is also a pedometer, weight tracker, and activity logger. By lunch time on that first day I had smashed my daily target for time, steps and calories and continued to add extra to the counters.
This really motivated me and I felt really positive about the experience. The 2nd day was lot harder though. Buoyed by results on day 1 I again tried to hit my daily targets, but without a run this became really hard. It was on this day that I also downloaded the Google Fit Widget on my Samsung S4. This allowed me to instantly access the fitness data from the home screen of my phone and is a fantastic visual representation of how I am doing.
I have now been using the app for 2 weeks and I am really pleased with the progress that I am making with the help of the app. I have already lost 3Kg’s and have upped my morning runs to 40 minutes. The app also calculates the daily average (mean average) of the targets, so not only can you see how you are progressing in terms on reaching that daily target but also how you are doing compared to your normal amounts. The app also calculates the Basal Metabolic Rate and gives this as an indication of how many calories are being burnt off when inactive. So even if you are sat at your desk the calorie counter is ticking over, as technically it is in your body.
As you would expect from any fitness app it is fully customisable in regards to whether you want to record information in metric or imperial and how you display the data. I really like the graphs but would also like to see the doughnut graphs for previous days not just on the actual day.
Potential use in Education
What I would really like to be able to see with this app is the ability to share the information with other people and even be able to challenge others. I think this would be a really powerful tool in the fight against obesity, it would nearly be a sort of gamification of fitness with all information stored in Google Drive. Imagine, as a health professional or PE teacher, being able to access this data in a Google Classroom sort of manner. Imagine parents being able to see what exercise their children are getting whilst on their lunch break at work, imagine being able to challenge friends and colleagues through the Google Fit app. I know most of this is already achievable through other apps but Google is known to all and used by most on a daily basis. You can currently log into your Google Fit app on a desk top at GoogleFit .
Unfortunately, at the moment because it has been designed to rival Apples Healthkit there are no plans to make it available on the iOS platform, so it remains an Android app. But how many of us have old Android phones that are no longer in use? Why not convert these outdated phones into your latest piece of fitness tech?
Google Fit is a great app but it has the potential to be so much more……are you listening Google?