GTT Edmonton Meeting Notes, Fitness Tech, February 10, 2020

Summary Notes

GTT Edmonton Meeting February 10, 2020


The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Edmonton Chapter was held February10 at 7pm at Ascension Lutheran Church 8405 83 Street in Edmonton.

14 people attended.

Reading Tip: These summary notes apply HTML headings to help navigate the document. With screen readers, you may press the H key to jump forward or Shift H to jump backward from heading to heading. Read the Additional Resources section following the meeting notes to learn about our one on one telephone support, the National monthly teleconference, and the support email list.


February Topic –Fitness Tech

Lorne and Russell demonstrated the Apple Watch and other fitness and wellness technologies.


Russel Apple Watch Demo

Russell demonstrated some of the health and fitness apps available on his Apple Watch series 4. It is a great tool for helping to keep you motivated to exercise and stay fit. He demoed the Heart Rate App, the ECG App, the Activity App, the Workout App, and the Breathe App.

Heart Rate app

Your Apple Watch monitors your heart rate if you are wearing it. You can check your current heart rate, resting rate, and walking average rate at any time by opening the Heart Rate App. Russell showed an example of his heart rate stats for the day. You can also set the Heart Rate App to notify you if your heart rate goes above a certain rate, for example, 120 BPM, or below a certain rate, for example, 40 BPM after resting for 10 minutes. These rates can be set through the Watch App on the iPhone. The app also keeps track of your heart rate during a workout which you can view in the Workout app, and keeps track of your heart rate while using the Breathe app.


The Apple Watch ECG app can help detect atrial fibrillation (AFib, which are irregular heart rhythms, and track this in the health app. Russell gave a demo of how to take an ECG on the Apple Watch. The app warns that the Apple Watch cannot check for signs of a heart attack and suggests that you contact emergency services if you believe you are having a medical emergency.


Activity App

The Activity App on the Apple Watch helps you keep track of Moving, Exercise, and Standing. Each of these categories is referred to as a ring. The Moving ring tracks the number of calories you burn in each day by moving. You can set the number of calories you wish to burn each day, and then track how well you are doing throughout the day. The Exercise Ring is set to 30 minutes of brisk exercise. You can track the number of minutes of exercise you have completed at any point in the day. The Standing Ring keeps track of how many times you’ve stood during that day. By default, it prompts you to stand once each hour of the day.


Workout App

The Workout App on the Apple Watch can be set to the type of activity you plan to do, for example, indoor or outdoor walk or run, indoor or outdoor cycle, hiking, stair stepper, yoga, etc. You can also choose what you wish to track, for instance, distance, duration, heart rate, total calories burned. Russell opened the Workout app to show some of the different setting choices available.


Breathe App

Russell opened the Breathe App on his Apple Watch and showed how you can set the duration of the breathe session, and discussed how you can set the number of times your Apple Watch prompts you to breathe each day through the Watch app on the iPhone. The duration can be set from 1 to 5 minutes. Russell then went through a 1 minute breathe session. When you set the duration and tap on start, VoiceOver prompts you to “Inhale along with the taps you will feel on your wrist and to Exhale between taps”.



Lorne Webber Demos



Lorne demonstrated some of the accessible fitness and health tracking features of the Fitbit app, as connected to his Fitbit Charge 2, especially as it compares to those of the Apple Watch.

The Fitbit itself contains little to no accessibility features, especially for totally blind users; excluding a vibration notification when it’s successfully connected to the power and charging, like most phones.

Via the Fitbit app, “silent” vibrating alarms can be set for the Fitbit to alert you with a vibration which won’t stop until you tap the screen or press the side button.

The Fitbit app gives the user access to fitness and health metrics such as Total steps, distance, Flights climbed, total caloric expenditure, current and resting heart rate, daily time spent exercising, and, if you wear it to bed, total time sleeping and a sleep score estimating how restful your sleep was, (i.e., were you technically sleeping but doing lots of tossing and turning in your sleep.

Perhaps the biggest advantage the Fitbit has over the Apple Watch is its Battery life, approx. 5-7 days of 24-hour use, as compared to the 24- 48 hours of most Apple Watches. (with the proviso that the Apple Watch is much more fully featured than the Fitbit; these more powerful features take up much more battery life.

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of the Fitbit is the need to view all of it’s statistics via the Fitbit app. Without the app on a smartphone or Tablet, the device itself, unlike the Apple Watch, is not accessible. Some users point out that the most basic feature of an Apple Watch on your wrist is that it can tell you the time accessibly, which the Fitbit cannot.


Polar Heart Rate Strap

Lorne also demonstrated his Polar H7 Heart Rate chest strap which can connect to hundreds of iOS and Android apps to keep track of Heart Rate during exercise. The strap must be next to your skin not worn outside clothing. Lorne was using the Runmeter app which is very accessible and offers hundreds of configurable audio announcements, however many other apps offer comparable functionality such as the WalkMeter app.


7-Minute Workout App

Next Lorne demonstrated one of the many guided exercise coaching apps; 7-Minute Workout,

Which has its premise that you can start your fitness journey by just performing a series of 12 body weight exercises in just 7 minutes. The app counts down and notifies you when you need to switch, and what the new exercises are. One Criticism of this app is that if you happen to be unfamiliar with how to perform that exercise, while the app does offer some text based descriptions, the pictures/diagrams built in to the app probably won’t be very helpful for a totally blind user.

Blind Alive Workout Videos with Audio Description

In terms of following along with pictures, diagrams and videos of exercises, Lorne discussed exercise videos, which sighted people will recognize from decades ago. They have been much harder for those with no or very low vision to follow along with, unless they have sighted assistance; now that has changed.


Lorne discussed the amazing resource which is the website, which hosts Eyes Free Fitness.

(The following quote is taken directly from the home page, donations would be welcome and go to support keeping this resource free).

“You just discovered the home of a complete set of the Eyes-Free Fitness® audio exercise programs. All programs are completely free for your downloading pleasure — no strings attached. These programs allow you to stretch, strengthen, condition, and tone your body, all without the benefit of eyesight. All these programs are thoroughly described with extra supplementary audio and text materials, should they be needed.

Mel Scott, who is blind, brought together a team of fitness instructors, musicians, and audio editors in order to provide a variety of exercise programs for people who need or prefer non-visual cues while exercising.”



Lorne also discussed a number of relaxation and meditation resources, such as the Headspace app

which is one of several accessible guided meditation apps where you get the first lesson for free but then must pay to continue to more advanced material.

Headspace, along with many similar options is also available if you have a Google Home or Amazon Echo smart speaker, just by saying Connect to Headspace, or Open Headspace.


Some people prefer to listen to nature sounds or calming music in order to meditate, relax, or unwind from a busy day; your smart speaker can help you with this. just ask it to play types of sounds, such as Ocean sounds, or sleep sounds; sometimes you will have to enable a specific skill such as the Amazon Echo Island Sounds skill, before it will start playing.

If you have a subscription to a streaming music service such as Spotify or Apple Music, you can ask the smart assistant to play “relaxing music, meditative music, yoga music, etc. and it will queue up a corresponding playlist of music to help you relax.


Many of the above Meditation/relaxation  resources can also be found for free by searching YouTube for meditation, guided meditation, ASMR, Nature sounds, Meditation music, relaxation music, etc.


Next Meeting (Monday March 9 at 7pm)

  • Vicky Varga from Edmonton Public Library will provide an update on accessible library services such as CELA and NNELS.
  • As always, for help with technology bring your devices and/or questions to the meeting.


Additional Resources

Telephone Support

Contact our GTT coordinators, Kim Kilpatrick in the East or Albert Ruel in the West to book one on one telephone support.

Kim: 877-304-0968 Ext. 513


Albert: 877-304-0968 Ext. 550



GTT Blog and Monthly Teleconference

CCB sponsors a national GTT monthly teleconference. You may subscribe to the GTT blog to get email notices of teleconferences, meeting notes from GTT chapters, and other information. To subscribe, activate the Follow link at the bottom of the blog web page to enter your email.

GTT Email Support List

CCB also sponsors a GTT email support list to provide help and support with technology for blind and low vision Canadians.  To subscribe to the email list, send an empty email to:


GTT Edmonton Overview

  • GTT Edmonton is a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
  • GTT Edmonton promotes a self-help learning experience by holding monthly meetings to assist participants with assistive technology.
  • Each 2 hour meeting consists of a feature technology topic in the first hour and a general tech discussion in the second hour.