Garmin has a wide selection of fitness trackers, smartwatches and other devices. Whatever sport you’re into you can bet the company has a good wearable fit. But sometimes things go wrong. Here’s what to do if the Garmin on your wrist is not counting steps, not syncing steps or not counting steps accurately.
Your Garmin fitness tracker and smartwatch should count steps. That’s one of the reasons you bought it. Pretty much every fitness tracker or smartwatch has that ability. Many of us feel that there is no point in walking if a device on our wrist is not giving us credit for the effort.
If your Garmin is not counting steps, there’s definitely something wrong. Try one of these solutions.
Reboot the device
It could be down to the device. The first thing you should do is restart the wearable. Don’t worry, this will not erase any data. It simply restarts the device, clearing its memory and anything else that might be causing a glitch.
If your wearable has a power button, simply hold this until it switches off. Then press it again to switch back on. For wearables without a power button, you’ll need to plug them into a USB port using the charging cable. This is as close to a restart as you will get with these wearables. Owners of Vivofit devices should skip this step entirely as their device cannot be power cycled.
Verify that activity tracking is switched on
Garmin wearables are very customizable. There are settings for pretty much everything including activity tracking. When you switch this off, your step count, floors climbed, intensity minutes and sleep tracking will not be tracked.
If the Garmin is not keeping tabs on your steps, make sure this is not the culprit. Perhaps you inadvertently switched off Activity Tracking.
Go to the settings screen on your timepiece. Choose Activity Tracking>Status. Make sure this is not set to Off. It should be in the green position, as shown below.
For example, if you have a Forerunner or Fenix with five physical buttons. Long press on the middle left button. On the next screen scroll down until you see Settings. Choose this and scroll down until you hit Activity Tracking.
Depending on your device, other Activity Tracking settings that you can tweak on this page include Move alerts – these can be switched on or off. Then there are Goal Alerts (which appear appear for your daily steps goal, daily floors climbed goal, and weekly intensity minutes) and Move IQ.
An even easier way to do this is via the smartphone app. Click on the picture of your watch at the top in Garmin Connect – this will take you through to the Settings page. Choose Device Settings. Choose Activity Tracking. After you make any changes make sure to sync your device.
Finally, you can also do this via the website dashboard. Sign into your Garmin Web Connect account and choose the watch picture in the top right corner. Select your device and then go to Device Settings (or User Settings). Make the changes and don’t forget to save them and sync to your watch.
Make sure you’ve upgraded to the latest firmware version
Firmware upgrades usually bring bug fixes. If your Garmin is not counting steps make sure you have installed the latest version on your wearable. Go to Settings>About on your watch to check the software number on your device.
Opening the smartphone app typically automatically syncs the latest firmware version to your wearable. This will occur as long as the auto-update option is switched on in the smartphone app settings.
The other option is to install the firmware manually. In this case you’ll need to navigate on your watch to Settings>Start/Stop>System>Software Update. A final way to install firmware updates is via Garmin Express by plugging the wearable into your computer by using a USB cable.
Factory reset your device
The last resort? As always, factory reset your device. Then follow the setup prompts to get it up and running again. This is a bit extreme, though, as it will delete all the data from your watch. Only use it as a last resort.
Sometimes you can sync your watch to Garmin Connect, only to notice that the step count has not ported over. There could be a few reasons why this might be happening.
- First, there’s the above Activity Tracking fix. Make sure this option is set to on.
- If you’ve reset the watch it might behave a bit strangely that day. Doing this will reduce the step count to zero on the device. However if you’ve already synced to Garmin Connect that same day, the step total in the smartphone app will not increase until the watch has had a chance to catch up to the total in the smartphone app.
- Another thing to make sure is that the consent to upload data has not been disabled. You can allow or revoke consent for this at any time. In the smartphone app the option can be found in Settings>Profile & Privacy>Data>Device upload.
- Make sure your Garmin has not been associated with more than one account. A watch can only sync to one account. Pairing it with a different account – for example if you’ve loaned your watch it to someone will result in no more syncing with your original Garmin Connect app. In this case you’ll need to associate it once again with your account.
- Check that the time setting is correct. This not something you need to usually worry about. It will be done automatically when you connect to Garmin Express, GPS or the Garmin Connect app. But you can also set it manually if it is not correct. If the time is off your activity data might upload at the wrong time or date.
Garmin devices capture data on your steps by using the internal accelerometer. This follows the swings of your arm. Each complete swing counts as two steps.
You can wear the watch or fitness tracker on your dominant or non-dominant arm. But make sure you indicate this in the settings page. Having said that, it is typically better to wear it on your non-dominant arm. It doesn’t move as much as your dominant arm and is likely to cause less damage to your wearable.
A device sitting on your wrist will never be perfect at counting steps. But until sensors embedded in our footware become the norm, we will need to continue to rely on this data.
So don’t put too much importance if the steps tracked by your wearable do not tally exactly to another fitness tracker or smartwatch. There will probably be a difference, which hopefully will not be too large. Discrepancies can even occur between different wearables from the same brand.
Rather than these differences that may occur, it is more important to focus on the wearable you have. As long as you are using the same device each day you will be comparing like with like as far as step count. But if there is a bigger problem and your Garmin is clearly not counting steps accurately, read on.
What to do if you’re getting too many steps
But sometimes it’s clear there’s something off. Some users have reported an increased step count when driving a vehicle due to vibrations from the road and terrain. Other culprits could be a restless night of sleep, brushing your teeth and even taking a shower. These activities may cause irregular arm movements so can confuse the algorithm and accelerometer.
I am not getting enough step credit
It also works the other way around. You could be receiving too little credit for your efforts. This could happen if you’re walking but keeping your arm in a relatively immobile position. Examples include pushing a stroller, pushing a shopping cart or carrying groceries, mowing the lawn, riding a bike and more.
Unforunately, there is not much you can do. Garmin does not allow for manual editing of step count. This is because it is contractually bound by many insurance companies. These types of organizations sometimes use your step count and other activity data for calculating benefits in health insurance.
How to set Custom Stride Length on a Garmin
Along with the step count, Garmin also estimates the distance you’ve travelled. This is typically done by multiplying the steps you’ve walked by your stride length.
The good news is that you can tweak your stride length. For walking, this can be done on any wearable. Simply go to settings in the smartphone app and choose Custom Stride Length. You can manually enter the measurements in the fields provided.
For devices which do not use GPS to record a run, there’s also an option to tweak the Custom Stride Length for running. Do a trial run over a fixed distance while counting your steps. You won’t need to do any math. Garmin will do this for you. The maximum distance the app allows for is 400 meters. Aim to go close to this as longer distances allow for greater accuracy.
If, on the other hand, you have a watch with the ability to tap into a GPS signal – there is nothing for you to do. The device will use the GPS readings to calculate your step length and distance travelled when running.
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