Image source: Fitbit

What to do if your Fitbit is not counting steps accurately

Most wearables these days can track steps. They had that ability since the first fitness trackers and smartwatches came out a couple of decades ago. Sensor technology has progressed over the years but even the most sophisticated of sensors can experience issues. If you find that your Fitbit is not accurately counting your steps, there is no need for concern. There are a number of things you can do to fix the issue. Read on to find out what they are.

Jump to

A better understanding of how the Fitbit counts steps
Where to view your Fitbit step-count
What to do if your Fitbit step count is off
The bottom line

A better understanding of how the Fitbit counts steps

You may be wondering, how exactly something sitting on your wrist can count steps. What allows this is tiny tech that is housed in the device that is referred to as a triple-axis accelerometer. This is an electromechanical sensor that can detect gravity in addition to linear accelerations. It can also detect rotational accelerations.

What to do if your Fitbit is not tracking steps accurately
Triple Axis Accelerometer

Housed inside the wearable, the accelerometer tracks movement in all directions. It is capable of determining the orientation, inclination, and tilt of the body. This is in addition to taking inertial measurements of position and speed. To put it another way – thanks to this process, Fitbit devices are able to identify the user’s walking or running patterns and calculate the total number of steps taken throughout the day.

When measured against the accuracy of data collected by other brands of wearable technology, Fitbit devices perform well. A comparison of the step-counting accuracy of the Fitbit Charge 2, Apple Watch, Garmin Vivosmart HR, and the Xiaomi Mi Band was conducted in a study that was published in 2018 in the journal Digital Health. According to the findings of the study, the Fitbit Charge 2 had the median error rate that was the lowest among the devices at 6.7%, followed by the Apple Watch (8.0%), the Garmin Vivosmart HR (9.3%), and the Xiaomi Mi Band (10.2%).

As you can see, none of these wearables are without flaws. Having said that, it is necessary to point out that this study is a little bit dated. So it is quite likely that the precision of the devices has improved since then.

Where to view your Fitbit step-count

Most of the recent crop of Fitbit activity bands and smartwatches have displays. These can be utilised to view your step count at a glance. You can also look at historical values on some devices.

But a more convenient place to go to is the Fitbit smartphone app. It serves as the central hub for managing and analysing data collected by Fitbit wearables.

When users open the Fitbit app, they are greeted by a dashboard that can be customised to display an overview of their daily activity data. The section that counts steps offers a real-time update of the total number of steps that have been taken throughout the day.

Additional step-related functionality

When users tap the step count section of the dashboard, a more detailed view opens up. It allows you the to do the following:

  1. Set daily step goals: Users are able to set personalised step goals for themselves each day, which will assist them in remaining motivated and focused on their overall fitness objectives. The daily step goal is set at 10,000 steps by default, but you can change this to a number that better suits your unique requirements and capabilities.
  2. View step count history: The app provides users with the ability to view a historical overview of their step count, which enables them to track their progress over time. It allows you to to recognise patterns, keep track of your progress, and understand when you may need to make adjustments to your activity levels.
  3. Analyze hourly activity: The Fitbit app also breaks down the user’s step count on an hourly basis, which provides insights into the user’s activity patterns throughout the course of the day. With this you can identify periods of inactivity and make changes to your daily routine. This could be simple things such as adding short walks or stretching breaks to your schedule.
  4. Compare progress with friends: Fitbit’s social features enable you to connect with friends and family members who also use Fitbit devices so that they can share their progress.

No more challenges

In the past, Fitbit has also offered challenges to keep users engaged and motivated. Unfortunately, along with a few other community-based features, this was pulled a few weeks ago.

There is no doubt that the acquisition by Google is the motivation behind this dubious move. It is hoped that the company will reintroduce this kind of functionality later on in this year – perhaps a reworked version of the same, developed in conjunction with the search giant.

What to do if your Fitbit step-count is off

When setting up your Fitbit tracker and account, you are asked to enter physiological details such as their weight, height and gender. This is for a reason. The software applies this data to accelerometer readings to come up with the estimated step count.

This explanation gives a hint as to what you ought to do right at the beginning if you have any suspicions that there is a disparity in the step count measurements. Verify that the information you entered for your height is correct. Your height is used by Fitbit to estimate the length of your walking and running strides.

You also have the option to manually adjust estimated stride numbers so that they more closely correspond to your walking or running gait. This is an option for those who have legs that are either longer or shorter than the average person’s.

But before you get started with all of this, you should make sure that your step count is actually inaccurate. You can accomplish this by walking a hundred steps and making sure to count each time one of your feet touches the ground as a separate step. Check the result against the step tally that is displayed on your device.

Another troubleshooting step is to make sure you are wearing your tracker properly. A Fitbit should be worn a finger’s width above your wristbone. Poor placement can lead to inaccurate step counts.

What to do if your Fitbit is not tracking steps accurately
Image source: Fitbit

There are also a few other things you can do. For example, try restarting the Fitbit a few times while it is plugged into the charger. This process might resolve the issue.

Also, sometimes there are bugs in the software. So make sure that your device’s firmware is up to date. Fitbit regularly releases updates to improve device performance and accuracy.

The bottom line

As was stated previously, there are times when the disparity cannot be attributed to anyone’s fault. The accuracy of step tracking from wearable devices is not always reliable. Because the count is dependent on the movement of your arms, normal day-to-day activities have the potential to produce inaccurate readings.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

If you are travelling in a vehicle, for instance, the tracker might count a few extra steps because of the vibrations. Certain movements, such as hand gestures, or even typing, can sometimes be misinterpreted as steps by the accelerometer, causing an overestimation of the step count. Holding objects, pushing a stroller, or walking with hands in pockets, on the other hand, can limit arm movement

Hopefully one of the above solutions will resolve the issue you are having. If not, it might be time to contact Fitbit’s support team.

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Ivan Jovin

Ivan has been a tech journalist for over 7 years now, covering all kinds of technology issues. He is the guy who gets to dive deep into the latest wearable tech news.

One thought on “What to do if your Fitbit is not counting steps accurately

  • My fitbit logs my steps 2-3days in a row while walking my dog. Then there are no steps recorded on the 4th dog walking day. I don’t understand the discrepancy


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