(Credit: Google)

As valuable as regular exercise can be for mental health and restful sleep, you may not always feel motivated to lace up those running shoes or heave your way through another set of pushups. So one of the ways to encourage people to perform repetitive but important tasks is to make a light game out of it. Google is tackling this approach with a big update to its Fit activity tracking app today.

SEE: Could you pass the FBI's new app to test physical fitness?

The old version of the Google Fit app already had the concept of Move Minutes, which you could collect simply by walking around. However, exercise isn't just about being mobile, so Google took some notes from the American Heart Association to create Heart Points, which reward you for elevating your heart rate, rather than just walking from the couch to the fridge. The more strenuous your workout, the more Heart Points you get.

As before, Google Fit offers no material rewards for hitting your daily Move Minutes and Heart Points numbers. In theory, the health benefits of regular exercise are supposed to be your rewards, though it may take a while to see the results in the mirror or in a test at the doctor's office. As Calvin's dad might say, you're building character.

In case you're worried that Google Fit isn't tracking all your activity, it can collect data from dozens of other fitness apps that you may also be using.

Last but not least, Google Fit now has some coaching and exercise tips that are personalized according what kind of workouts the app detects you doing. It won't replace a human being (though Google may be working on that as well), but it's also available to motivate you 24/7, for free.

Note that Google Fit is exclusive to Android devices and Wear OS (formerly Android Wear) smartwatches. Apple's counterpoint for iOS and WatchOS is a pre-installed app called Apple Health.

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Exercising for weight loss may not be effective

Google Fit's calorie counter is still front-and-center, but be aware that these meters are notoriously inaccurate and tend to use a pretty optimistic estimation of your burn rate. Furthermore, if your goal is to lose weight, the effectiveness of regular exercise in this area is actually mixed at best; adjusting your dietary composition tends to produce better results that last after you've hit your goal weight.

And if you want to change the way you eat, be aware that "nutritionist" is not a regulated term in the United States. Instead, you should consult with a registered clinical dietitian who is recommended to you by your doctor.

Of course, regular exercise remains important for self-esteem and restful sleep, regardless of how you feel about your waistline, so one shouldn't ignore it just because it may be unlikely to help with weight loss.

The takeaways

  1. The Google Fit app has gotten a redesign with more gamification, this time to emphasis exercise intensity rather than sheer abundance, and it can now provide exercise tips and motivation based on the data that it collects about your regimen.
  2. The Google Fit app is only available for Android devices and Wear OS (formerly Android Wear) smartwatches. iOS and WatchOS users get a pre-installed app called Apple Watch.

Also see

Tom is a senior editor at Download.com.