How to get your fitness tracker to count steps more accurately

If you wear a fitness tracker or smartwatch to count your steps, you may not realize that your device could be lying to you. Just because it says you reached your daily step goal doesn’t mean you actually walked that many steps. Fitbits and the like can under- or over count the number of steps you take in a day, so what you see isn’t always accurate.

Part of the problem is misunderstood motions. Your fitness band uses motion sensors to get data, but some motions that aren’t walking can get counted, like washing your hands, petting your cat, or using a computer mouse. Sometimes vibrations, like from riding in a car or train can create motions that are interpreted as steps ,and so can riding in an elevator if your tracker detects air pressure changes. But to make sure you’re getting the most accurate readings, try these:

  • Read the manual- The first step is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when setting up the device so you get a correct count.
  • Use your non-dominant hand- If you’re right-handed and wear your tracker on your right hand, there are more opportunities for mistakes since you use that hand for everything from stirring a pot to brushing your teeth.
  • Be firm- As in wear the device firmly on your wrist. If it flops around and is loose, you’re likely to get false steps and it could prevent the heart rate sensors from working correctly, too.
  • Log your non-active times- If you’re all about the details, log your before and after step counts when you sit or do something that doesn’t involve walking for a long time. Then you can subtract these false steps from your total. You can also take the tracker off when you’re doing things that may generate false steps, like playing an instrument.

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