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A change of pace: Get more from your walks with Google Fit

Image showing a rendering of two phone screens displaying Paced Walking feature.

Everyone wants to be healthy and stay fit, but some days, it can be incredibly difficult to get a workout in. But there is something many of us do everyday that has huge health benefits: walk. 

For years, walking has been measured by the number of steps we take. While seeing this count can be motivating, not all steps are equal. Think about it this way: There’s a difference between wandering through the garden and dashing to catch the bus. That difference is intensity, and scientists have found increased health benefits associated with walking faster.  Everyone has a preferred walking speed — a pace that feels natural — and picking up that pace has health benefits similar to riding a bicycle. Plus, if you start walking faster, your natural pace will get faster over time. 

I learned a lot about this from Rob Harle, a research scientist for Google Fit. In fact, we worked together and used this research to introduce a new Google Fit feature called Paced Walking, which is already available for most Android phones now. “The idea is simple: Pop in some headphones during a Paced Walking session and we’ll play an audio beat — a gentle background tick — for you to fall in step with,” Rob explains. “You can use the app to change the beat speed and vary the intensity of your walks. The beat plays on top of other audio, so you can still play music or podcasts while you walk. 

Another motivation for launching Paced Walking was to meet people where they are. “Studies show there is a lot of disparity when it comes to fitness; many people don’t have access to gyms or workout studios, or can’t afford equipment or online classes,” Rob says. “Walking is something almost everyone has access to, and picking up the pace can increase the health benefits.”

Once you start picking up the pace using Paced Walking, you’ll earn more Heart Points in Google Fit — for every minute that you walk at a pace of over 100 steps per minute, you’ll earn one Heart Point. This will help you get the American Heart Association® and the World Health Organization recommendations of at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, all while you are doing something that you routinely do — walking. And a bonus to using Paced Walking? You’ll arrive at your destination a little sooner!

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