How Does Fitbit Track Steps?

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Fitbit is one of the most well-known smartwatch brands known for its accurate health & sports tracking. And, one of the most common reasons that most users buy Fitbit is because of the step-tracking feature. It is a useful feature to have & it is one of the pros of buying a smartwatch.

Most non-techy users have no idea how it works & how Fitbit tracks steps they have taken. In this guide, I have explained in detail how step tracking on Fitbit works & various other details.

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Quick Takeaway
Fitbit tracks your steps using the 3-axis accelerometer present on the smartwatch. It recognizes your arm movement & based on the motion recognizes whether or not you are walking & tracks your steps.

How Does Fitbit Track Steps?

how does Fitbit track steps

Fitbit smartwatches & fitness trackers come with 3 axis accelerometer which detects the watch’s position & movement. So whenever you move your wrist this sensor can detect & analyze the movement pattern of your hand.

In the case of walking, your hand will move in a pendulum-like pattern. This motion is very different than other activities like typing on the laptop, cleaning, driving, or other activities. Fitbit uses the accelerometer sensor to recognize your hand movement & track your number of steps.

How Does Fitbit Track Steps To Miles?

There are two ways Fitbit tracks miles using steps. The first way is using the GPS available on your smartwatch.

If you are tracking using the GPS then distance will be calculated using the distance tracked by GPS. It is a way more accurate way to measure the distance you have covered no matter whether you are running or walking.

In the case of walking without using GPS, Fitbit uses the stride length & number of steps to calculate the distance you have covered. Stride is the distance that you cover when you take a step. Using both stride & number of steps Fitbit tracks the distance walked.

How Does Fitbit Track Steps On Treadmill?


Fitbit tracks your distance on the treadmill as it tracks your walking. It analyses the speed & motion of your arm to determine your distance covered & steps. However, it might not be as accurate as the treadmill because the running machine measures the belt that you are running on. So even if you are not on the treadmill, the treadmill will still track the run.

On the other hand, Fitbit tracks your steps only when you are actively moving on the treadmill to measure the distance. I have done a Fitbit Versa 3 treadmill accuracy test on my channel Wearholic to compare the Fitbit steps tracking accuracy as well. In the video below, I have explained in great detail how does Fitbit track steps on the treadmill.

How Does Fitbit Calculate Your Stride Length?

It is clear that stride is clearly an important metric when it comes to calculating distance covered accurately. So how does Fitbit know your stride length? Simple it uses your age, sex, & height to determine your stride length.

However, that was true only for the initial version of Fitbit watches & trackers. Today Fitbit will calculate your stride length automatically if you are tracking your walking & running with GPS tracking enabled.

If you are still not satisfied then worry not as Fitbit gives you the option to adjust your stride length manually as well.

Just follow the steps below change your stride length manually in Fitbit.

  • Open the Fitbit app & tap on the Account option in the top left corner.
  • On the next screen, tap on activity & wellness. Now, open the Exercise option.
  • Here you will see a Stride Length option on the top, tap on it.

how to change fitbit stride length

  • Now disable the Set automatically option & set your walking or running stride manually on the watch.

Fitbit stride

How Does Fitbit Track Steps On iPhone?

You can also track steps using the Fitbit app on your iPhone as well. To enable the feature go to the Fitbit app, Account, & Set up a Device option.

  • On the next screen tap on the MobileTrack option. Next, you will have to read & Accept the terms & conditions.

how does fitbit track steps using iphone

  • Now tap on the β€œSet Up Your Phone Option” & now you can track your steps using your iPhone.
  • Now to begin tracking the exercise go back to the app home screen & tap on the + icon next to the Track your exercise option.
  • Now you will be presented to choose between the Run, Walk, or Hike option. Fitbit uses GPS & phone’s built-in accelerometer sensor to track steps on the iPhone.

Fitbit iphone

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Is The Fitbit Accurate On Steps?

Fitbit generally tends to be fairly accurate when it comes to tracking your steps. However, there is always some slight margin of error as it can under or overcount 8 to 9 steps.

Does Fitbit Track Steps By Arm Movement?

Yes, smartwatches like Fitbit use an accelerometer that detects arm movement to recognize when a person is moving to track their steps.

How Does Fitbit Track Steps Without GPS?

Accelerometer on Fitbit can track your arm movement & notice the pattern or motion of your arm to track your steps.

Why Is My Fitbit Counting Steps When I Am Not Moving?

Fitbit tracks your steps by detecting and recognizing your arm movement. However, there are usually some false positives as well that Fitbit detects as walking. You could be doing dishes, cleaning, or any other similar hand movement which may be causing it to detect as a step.

Tom Nielson

Tom's love for watches started when his grandfather gifted him his Rolex watch when he turned 18! Being a teenager it was a big deal for him. Later when he got his first job he bought Fossil Palm Pilot back in 2003 which was a smartwatch. Since then smartwatches have come a long way and so is Tom's love for them. His experience with watches inspired him to start Wearholic and share his knowledge of wearables including watches, smartwatches, smart glasses, & smart clothing.

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