Fitbit fitness bands and more recently smartwatches are some of the most accurate wireless tracking devices on the market today. There are, however, a few small tweaks you can make, to make sure the trusty device sitting on your wrist is as accurate as it can be.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
No matter how much you wear your fitness tracker, it won’t do you any good if it’s not correctly counting your steps or measuring your heart rate. These are some tips to help in your journey towards ultimate fitness and all the tracking that goes along with it.
What should I do if my step count seems off?
Fitbit trackers have a finely tuned algorithm for step counting which is designed to recognise intensity and motion patterns that are most indicative of people walking and running. When working at a desk, reading a book, or doing other arm movements, the tracker can sometimes pick up some extra steps if it thinks you are walking. This should not be a cause for worry. If, however, you feel there is a bigger problem, there are several things you can do to improve accuracy.
First make sure the wrist placement settings are correct. Your tracker should be about a finger’s width below your wrist bone.
Essential reading: Choosing the right Fitbit tracker
The second thing you can do, is to manually adjust the stride length which Fitbit calculates based on your height and gender. But you can only do this after you work out what it actually is. It’s a relatively simple process. Go to some place where you are sure of the distance. Count your steps as you walk across that distance, making sure you travel at least 20 steps. Divide the total distance taken by the number of steps to get your stride length. Your running stride can be calculated the same way.
You’ve probably spent most time on the phone app, but some of the key options, such as your stride length, are hidden in the web interface settings. To adjust these settings log into your fitbit.com dashboard and click the gear icon in the top right. Click Settings. Update the Stride Length and Running Stride Length fields. If these are blank, your account estimates the values based on your height and gender. Click Save. The next time you sync your tracker, the changes will take effect.
Did you know that your Fitbit’s readings will be affected by which wrist you’re wearing it on?
The domiant wrist setting decreases the sensitivity of step counting and should reduce any over counting of steps when your body is not moving. The opposite is true of a non-dominant wrist setting. Non-dominant is the default option, but either setting is fine as long as you let Fitbit know. You can change your settings, through the Fitbit app on your smartphone or through the web interface.
This information can also be used to hack the system! If you wear your device on your dominant hand, but specify in the app you wear it on your non-dominant hand, you can add more steps than you’re actually making!
Speaking about settings – maybe you weren’t pregnant or nursing when you first put on your tracker. If that’s the case, you should definitely flag your new status in Fitbit. Women who are pregnant or nursing burn more calories and need more calories.
Oh no! I’ve left my Fitbit at home again!!
We’ve all been there. You’ve left your trusty little tracker at home in your rush to get to work. And not to mention, for some of the new users, actually remembering to wear your tracker can be a challenge.
No, you don’t have to call in sick. The solution around this is called MobileTrack and Multi-Tracker Support.
MobileTrack uses your phone to keep tabs on basic activity data including steps, distance, and calories burned. What it won’t do is monitor floors, sleep, or active minutes. In the smartphone app, go to Account then Set Up a Device and choose MobileTrack from the list, then follow the instructions on the screen.
Or you can opt for the Multi-Tracker feature which will seamlessly switch the two over when it realises you are walking around without your Fitbit tracker. Using this option adds more than one device to your account, which gives you the convenience of seeing a single complete summary of daily activity on your dashboard from more than one tracker.
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Most Fitbit wearables can automatically detect when you’re exercising, but you always have the option of subsequently going through these activities and manually tagging them. This will improve the accuracy of the session, and give you some more data to sift through.
You can also manually add an activity through the Fitbit app or the website if you have forgotten to put on your tracker. Note that when you manually log an activity, its step and calorie data override the data automatically detected by your tracker during the same time period. This ensures that your steps are not counted twice as long as the manually logged activity has the correct start time and duration.
Why do I get extra floors sometimes?
Stair climbing is a calorie-blasting cardio exercise that can be an important part of a fit and healthy lifestyle. It can sometimes even be recommended as a weight loss exercise. Stair climbing works out our bones and muscles, improving strength, bone density and muscle tone. If your tracker measures floors, it detects floors using an altimeter, which is a sensor that calculates altitude based on atmospheric pressure.
Pressure changes due to other causes can happen. This, for example, includes a gust of wind, a weather change, or opening a door. The unwanted effect of this is that it can can occasionally cause your tracker to register imaginary, extra floors. Another factor is floor height. Your tracks registers one floor when you’ve gone up about ten feet. If you climb long staircases you may find that the tracker’s floor count doesn’t match how many floors you’ve gone up since the staircase was taller than ten feet.
Unfortunately, there is nothing really you can do about this until Fitbit provides us with a way to manually change readings. But don’t be surprised if you get an occasional high reading.
What impacts the accuracy of my heart rate reading?
A big selling point of some of the Fitbit devices is the heart rate monitor. As with all heart-rate tracking technology, whether a chest strap or a wrist-based sensor, accuracy is affected by personal physiology, location of wear, and type of movement.
For all-day wear when you’re not exercising, your tracker should usually rest a finger’s width below your wrist bone and lay flat, just as you would wear a watch. Fitbit’s heart rate tracking system is designed to be most accurate when the tracker is worn on the top of your wrist.
For improved heart rate accuracy during exercise, experiment with wearing the tracker higher on your wrist. As blood flow in your arm increases the farther up you go, moving the tracker up a bit can improve the heart rate signal. This will also help with some exercises which cause you to bend your wrist frequently, as this can also interfere with the heart rate signal.
Do not wear your tracker too tight. A tight band restricts blood flow, potentially affecting the heart rate signal. That being said, the tracker should also be slightly tighter during exercise than during all-day wear.
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Also, take some time to familiarise yourself with heart rate zones. You may be asking yourself what is heart rate zone training? Well it is simply using your heart rate zones to monitor your workout. Your body has 5 heart rate zones. The cardio zone, for example, is the medium to high intensity exercise zone in which you’re pushing yourself but not straining.
Most people who work out will tell you they want to lose weight, or simply get fitter. Not many people however know what their heart rate is, or where it should really be. This means that often, they are not training in the most efficient way to achieve their goals.
Heart rate zones are automatically calculated for you. You can, however, set your own zones by logging on to Fitbit.com, and accessing settings in the top-right corner. Click ‘Heart Rate Zones’ and choose the min and max heart rate for your desired zone. This can be particularly helpful if you are working toward a specific target.
Keep the battery from draining
To save the juice and keep your battery going longer, you can turn off the all-day sync function that keeps the Fitbit tracker constantly talking to its app. Don’t worry. The device will still remember everything. Just connect it back to your app at the end of the day to review your progress. To tweak this setting, tap the “Charge” tab at the top of the mobile app’s homescreen and toggle the “All-Day Sync” option to off.
Another option is not to add too many reminders and vibrations as these will drain your battery.
Plugging in your device while you’re in the shower for a quick top-up makes a lot of sense, especially since Fitbit doesn’t recommend wearing its wristbands there.
And finally – if all else fails…
If all else fails with your Fitbit device and it freezes, won’t sync or is causing other issues which simply won’t go away – you can always do a hard reset. The device will power-off and then display the Fitbit logo once it restarts. This should hopefully sort any stubborn problems.
That’s all we have to share, for now!
Do you have any tips and tricks of your own? Let us know in the comments section below.
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