Whether you want to plan a challenging bike route, compare nutritional info, or find the nearest yoga studio, these phone tricks make the fit life so much easier
It's hard to imagine a world without Google. But as we spend more more and more time on our phones, we've come to rely on instant answers to all of life's questions, without even haveing to sit down and pull out our laptops. Cue the Google app—the fastest way to use Google on your phone (whether you have an iPhone or Android). If you don't already have the app, the free, thirty-second download is well worth it—because these hacks can make being healthy and fit so much easier. Get ready to have your mind blown.
1. Practice yoga at home. Google just released the latest and greatest feature on their Google app: yoga poses. Open the app and ask Google about 131 different yoga poses (you can use the common name, like 'child's pose', a the Sanskrit name, like 'Balasana', if you want to get fancy) and you'll receive all the info you could possibly dream of, including a description and photos of the pose, the areas of the body it stretches and strengthens, preparatory poses, and follow-up poses. Use it to help plan your own home practice, or while following along with a yoga podcast. (Beginners can use it too as a makeshift Yoga 101 class!)
2. Get comprehensive nutrition info. Whether you're in the grocery store deciding whether to go with beef or pork for dinner, or looking in your fridge to figure out which ingredients you want in your morning smoothie, scrolling through your phone to make a healthy decision when you're crunched for time can be stressful. But thanks to Google's nutrition search—which pulls from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), you can get all of the relevant and up-to-date info you're looking for in seconds.
Just press the mic in the Google app and ask about the nutritional value of any food and most drinks (you can even ask it about specific measurements if you want to know how many calories are in say, one cup of sour cream). You’ll get both a spoken answer as well as a drop-down card of all of the nutritional information, including total fat, cholesterol, sodium, protein, caffeine, and more. You can also get a side-by-side comparison of two foods by simply saying "kale versus sweet potatoes," "beer versus wine," or "yams compared to sweet potatoes." (And it seems like Google will only get smarter on on this front—they've filed a patent application for an App That Can Guess the Calorie Count of Your Instagram Posts!)
3. Find your favorite workout class, anywhere. If you're on vacation, traveling for work, or just in an unfamiliar part of town, trying to find a gym or nearby studio can be an inconvenience—or even throw off your entire day. To find a gym or class nearby, simply say, “Ok Google, show me a yoga studio near here,” “Is there a SoulCycle near here?,” or "Where is the nearest Equinox?" and voilà. (Alternatively, you can use the voice feature to say “show me five-minute ab exercises” or “show me a 10-minute Pilates routine” and you’ll get YouTube videos you can click to without having to manually comb through YouTube.)
4. Check your health symptoms. Think you might have tendonitis? Not sure if you have a cold or just allergies? Sure, you could turn to Shape (shameless self-promotion!), but if you really need an answer quickly, Google's recently-added health symptoms feature is a godsend. Ask Google about any common health condition—they now have over 900!—and you’ll get all of the relevant deets based on high-quality medical sources across the web, as well as real-life clinical knowledge from doctors, who Google teamed up with to carefully compile and curate all the information.
Just press the mic and say "tendonitis," or "common cold" and you'll see typical symptoms and treatments, whether it’s critical, if it’s contagious, what ages it affects, and more (like high-quality illustrations). No, it's not a replacement for going to the doc, but all the info has been checked by doctors at Google and the Mayo Clinic for accuracy, so you can take informed next steps. (Here's the right way to use WedMD and Mayo Clinic to self-diagnose!)
5. Find the best time to go to the gym or grocery shopping. Yes, Sunday afternoons will always be busy, but unsure if Tuesday lunchtime is better than Wednesday to hit the gym or the market? Well, thanks to a 'Busyness' feature that was rolled out this summer, you can now use Google search to avoid long lines and always get your treadmill of choice. It uses anonymous phone data to tell you the busiest days and times of the week at millions of places and businesses around the world. Simply type (or say aloud) the name of your desired destination, tap on the title, and check out the handy bar graph to find the best time to go.
6. Get turn-by-turn biking directions and elevations. You knew you could use the Google Maps app for walking or driving, but who knew it was so handy for biking?! Type in your destination and you’ll see not only see the elevation of the route, but if there’s more than one route available, you can compare to opt for the most challenging—or flattest!—option. Plus, Maps will dictate turn-by-turn biking directions, so you can ride somewhere new without worrying about looking at your phone as you ride. Want to go on a challenging run to plan for your hilly half-marathon? You can also use this same elevation info to help you decide which route to take (you'll just have to click on the biking icon—an under-the-radar workaround for now!)
7. Plan a hike off the beaten path. If you’re planning a hike or run in an area without Wifi, you can still access a Google Map to help you navigate. While you still have Wifi, select your destination, then just press the mic and say, “OK Maps,” hit “save” and name it, and you’ll have an offline map you can access without Wifi or data. You’ll still be able to zoom in and see roads, trails, and landmarks (just not live traffic). To access your saved maps, just go to settings and select “your places.”
8. Hit the ski slopes. This one is pretty cool even for non-ski bunnies. Open Google Maps, then type in or say the name of your desired ski slope/resort to pull up a map of of the trails. As with the hiking trails, you can save these for later access, like when you're on the mountain and deciding whether to hit the double black diamond (or green or blue!) sans WiFi.