record runs, sleep, cycling, calories with a phone app – plus an introduction to Google Fit

topics on this page:

  • what do I eat?
  • how does my weight change?
  • do I get enough sleep?
  • where did I go today?
  • how does my body react to exercise?

introducing Google Fit

You just might have peeked at the phone app called Google Fit. Without extra hardware, not even a fitness band the app does a pretty ok job of estimating the steps you take, the route you took and the calories you burn. The screenshots below show the kind of information available by merely keeping the phone in a pocket. Some screens show a ‘share icon’ which you might use to send a map to a friend. The info is stored for ages – for example, I’ve effortlessly pulled the following data from Spring 2021 when my job was to walk from door to door at dozens of addresses in Cambridge.

Google Fit is more than this. It’s a data aggregator for many other apps and sensors. It can record things that other apps measure such as heart rate and sleep. This data is stored in your Google account just as photos and emails are stored in your account. Even if you don’t use other apps like Strava or Runkeeper, Google Fit allows you to manually record exercises or your weight. Some examples of measuring apps follow – and we’ll start with one that you can use immediately:

FatSecret: what do I eat?

Of all the measurements that I have sensors for, monitoring what goes into my face is still done manually ie I must keep a diary! The app FatSecret makes this easier and it requires a few minutes thinking per day. I can quickly see a summary of today’s calories, my balance of carbs, fat and protein as well as my intake of other nutrients such as fibre and salt.

On the FatSecret diary page choose Lunch and type ‘fish pie’ to see the options from various supermarket ready meals. The harder part is the quantity but examples are given. My ‘gauges of quantity are that 250g of food fills a mug while a portion of veg weighs 100g.

When you’re done entering foods choose the ‘Reports’ tab to see your food intake analysed and totalled.

Setting up FatSecret: enter the account information (height, weight, age) requested. Go to Settings and look for the option for Data Sharing with Google Fit and /or any other relevant apps. As a rule I allow all the permissions that the app reasonably asks for. I use another app called Huawei Health to send my weight (next item) via Health Sync to FatSecret. I have still to explore how FatSecret data interacts with Google Fit exercise data.

smart scales: how does my weight change?

The Huawei Smart Scale 3 is a clever weighing scale that connects with the Huawei Health app on my phone. Each time I weigh myself the value is sent over wifi and saved in the Huawei cloud. My weight then appears in the phone app as a graph over time. If I weigh with bare feet, extra data is provided. As well as weight I’ll see results for pulse, body fat, water, muscle and bone. If other members of the household weigh themselves they too will have their results sent to their phone. The scales seem to know who’s who. The Huawei Health app does a very good job of recording and presenting this data.

Setting up the smart scales: I bought this particular smart scale because I was already a Huawei convert – in short it’s handy if your weight app connects to an app you already use. For these scales sign into Huawei Health and add a new device by standing on the scales in bare feet. Should you be fully clothed, you can delete any duff weight measurements in the app later. The app can also send its data to Google Fit via another app called Health Sync. The result is a graph similar to that in Google Fit. For details on creating a Huawei Account and connecting your Huawei app see my story here.

fitness band: do I get enough sleep?

Smart watches and fitness bands monitor your pulse and movements with ease. By some magic, the phone app turns this data into a picture of how much sleep you’re getting. The devices from fitbit are renowned for this. The Huawei Health app that I use with my Huawei Band 6 (fitness band) and Huawei GT2e watch, convincingly records my naps, total sleep, deep sleep, REM sleep and wake up times. It doesn’t need telling that I’ve gone to bed. I can’t say if these devices are getting the type of sleep exactly right, but I can say that this information is becoming increasingly useful the more I review it. I can see daily, weekly and monthly sleep summaries in the Huawei Health app and this is more than I need. Nevertheless I can also save the data in Google Fit or share a night’s sleep report to Whatsapp or an email.

One more thing: as you might guess, you can set a regular wake-up alarm on a wearable. On a wearable that tracks your sleep, you may also set a ‘smart alarm’ that will not wake you if you’re in a deep sleep. I’m told that’s a wise thing.

Setting up for sleep recording: When your smart watch / fitness band is paired with Huawei Health, sleep is recorded without effort. The Huawei Health app can send its data to Google Fit via another app called Health Sync. The result is a graph showing the data again in Google Fit. I explain how I set this up here. Also here is my report on the Huawei wearables.

smart watch: where did I go today?

I want to know where I go because my walks and cycle rides are led by experienced people and I often want to repeat the route with others on another day. As I mentioned in the introduction, the phone GPS is capable of recording the tracks or routes on a map. But there is a knack to getting a reliable map record of a walk with just a phone. Oftentimes I obtain a low resolution result which I can’t use to repeat the route again. (The knack is to tell Google Fit to record a workout – but this I often fail to do … a watch puts the button to do that on your wrist). A watch with GPS, such as my Huawei GT2e will record my walk locations independently of the phone; a fitness band without GPS will give the phone a kick to use its own GPS and record the route just the same. In either case, you tell the device on your wrist that you’re about to do an outdoor walk / run and from that moment onwards your route is recorded (together with health data).

When the walk or run is over you choose ‘stop workout’ on your wrist device. Failing to do this may add the drive home to the end of your ‘workout’. The device will usually remind me if I forget to stop recording. After walk, using Huawei Health I can see the track on a map and I can replay the route to see where I’ve been. I can see the walk in a long list of completed activities together with the speed, altitude, pace, cadence or things I don’t quite know how to use yet. I can save the route to my library of past routes for future use. I can also export the route in a gpx format (and other formats) to use in other mapping apps, such as Google Maps (in My Maps) or GPX Viewer.

Setting up routes: When your smart watch / fitness band is paired with Huawei Health go to any device and start a ‘workout’ such as an outdoor, not indoor, walk. The GPS locations are recorded until you select ‘stop’. Huawei Health can be persuaded to send its data to Google Fit via Health Sync. The result is a graph showing the data again in Google Fit. I explain how I set this up here.

fitness band: how does my body react to exercise?

Recording heart rate and physical activity are core reasons for owning a fitness watch. The apps not only record many parameters, they let you set targets times or distances for your workouts. A fitness watch has a button to initiate a recording of a variety of types of workout. My Huawei GT2e, as well as other devices, seem to know how to assess belly dancing, walking, fencing, swimming and so on.

When the workout event is over choose ‘stop workout’ on your device. The wearable will remind you if you forget to stop recording. After walk, using Huawei Health I can see the exercise parameters and compare myself with yesterday’s self.

Setting up: pair a Huawei smart watch / fitness band with Huawei Health. Here is my review of the process. Huawei Health can send its data to Google Fit via Health Sync. The result is a graph showing the data again in Google Fit. I explain how I set this up here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *