Today we are talking about a major conversation starter for any fitness tracker user: uncounted Fitbit steps. Specifically I want to talk about how to get a Fitbit to count your steps when you are pushing a stroller or cart- or any time your arm is still. Affiliate links are included in this post.
Thank you so much for stopping by, Fitbit Friends! If you're here reading about this common frustration, just know you are not alone.
I will help you get those precious steps but before we go any further we need to get something straight!
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Okay now about those DANG uncounted steps!! Does this sounds familiar:
You just got a new Fitbit and you're all ready to get going. You strap on your shiny new gym shoes and hit the pavement for a stroller walk or run with your baby in tow.
Finished, sweaty and feeling the burn, you arrive home and check out your progress on your Fitbit.
“WHAT!? Zero steps counted?! How can that be?! Is my Fitbit broken?”
Nope it's working just fine. It just didn't realize you were moving.
That's not the only scenario that could rob you of precious Fitbit steps!
Uncounted Fitbit Steps
Some common activities that reportedly result in uncounted Fitbit steps are pushing a grocery cart, pushing a stroller, using a wheelbarrow, using a walker, walking on a treadmill with your hands on the crossbar, holding an umbrella while you walk, pushing a wheelchair, holding hands while you walk, carrying something in your hand, riding a bike or even using an elliptical.
The reason for this is that a wrist model Fitbit works by measuring your steps based on the movement of your arms. So when you're holding that arm still, or moving it very lightly, it just doesn't know you're getting your sweat on. Fitbit's own website even says so:
“For your device to count steps during a walk or run, your arm must swing back and forth as you move. If you need both hands (to push a stroller, for example), or if you hold a dog leash with the same arm that you wear your device on, consider using GPS to better calculate your distance traveled and calories burned.” –Fitbit's Help Website
If you're shopping for a Fitbit and this is a major concern for you, I'd recommend either a very basic Fitbit Zip which attaches to your clothes, or one of the GPS enabled models. Luckily fitbits have advanced quickly and it is a common feature now.
If you already have a fitbit that doesn't have built in GPS, or if you are buying an older model, then read on for some discussion and possible solutions.
Everyone reading this article should head over to Fitbit's website to Vote Up the Stroller Mode Suggestion. Fitbit uses these votes to determine which issues to address, so let them know that you'd like that feature.
Wearing a Fitbit While Pushing a Grocery Cart Versus Running With a Stroller
Wait! Hold on! This is an important point. Read it:
While researching this article I saw a comment from a Fitbit user who pointed out that Fitbits measure steps based on your full stride.
Next time you are pushing a grocery cart, try to notice the way you walk. *I* walk very differently when I'm out for an uninterrupted, brisk fitness walk versus when I shuffle slowly down the grocery store aisle looking for the precise jar of tomato puree that LalyDad needs for a recipe.
The slow shuffle of the grocery store cha-cha will not register the same as my full stride, whether I swing my arm or not. And I'm glad it doesn't. Let's face it I'm not really getting a lot of exercise at the grocery store. Am I missing some steps on my Fitbit at the grocery store? Probably. But really I'd rather get a picture of the activity that will help me reach my weight loss goals rather than make sure my Fitbit counts every time I lift my toe.
I mention this because I actually tried all the tricks below, comparing the number of steps I got during one lap around my house. When I read that comment about shuffling at the grocery store, I went back and retested. (Lame I know, but hey we need scientific results!)
Low and behold, every method of wearing my Fitbit, even on my wrist with my arm “swinging”, registered fewer steps when I took short, disjointed steps the way I would when I am slowly moving the way I would at the grocery store.
Does this mean you're forever robbed of those precious Fitbit steps any time you go grocery shopping? Not necessarily. It means EITHER you need to pay attention to walking at a normal pace and stride at the store, or just accept that you're not doing a lot of calorie burning and you'll still need to get physical activity aside from shopping. Get in, get out, get back to being active. It's up to you.
You should still give the tricks below a try if you are a speedy shopper!
Now, a stroller walk or treadmill run is a different story. Let's talk about getting Fitbit steps during activity that you're purposely doing to be fit.
RELATED: 15+ FITBIT HACKS
7 Ways to Get Fitbit Steps While Pushing a Stroller or Cart
If you already have a wrist model or if you are buying a Fitbit and want all the features found in the wrist models, here are some strategies for getting your steps when your arm is still.
For the sake of conversation, I am focusing on strollers here but if you are experiencing any of the other missed step situations I mentioned up top, give these a try and see what works.
As a note, I tried these strategies using my Fitbit Charge 2. This is a report of my experience therefore these results are based on my body and stride type. Please be sure to test these strategies yourself to see what works best for your stride and the activity you are doing.
Also always remember to secure your Fitbit. I'm not responsible for lost or damaged trackers. Read through these ideas and check out the pros and cons for each one:
Push One Handed. It makes sense that if your wrist swings, your steps will be counted… so we should just push the stroller with one hand, right? Well yes or no. If you have a super smooth stroller that steers easily, then this could be your answer. I've used multiple strollers with this method and one steers easily on any even terrain, so I'm golden. If I try with another stroller I'm constantly resetting the stroller straight, resulting in a zig zag stroller motion. Yikes. A third stroller gives me a sore elbow because I CAN keep it straight, but only with a lot of force.
Pros: Allows you to count your steps without removing your Fitbit, works great with easy steering strollers on an even surface. Allows Fitbits with heart rate capability to continue tracking.
Cons: Won't work for every person, with every stroller on every surface. Very hard with a grocery cart full or food and kids. Could result in elbow pain or unsafe steering of stroller if you lose control.
Put Fitbit in your pocket. A lot of people put their wrist model Fitbit in their pocket during grocery shopping trips or when they are out for a run. I tried this in the side-zip pocket of my jacket and my back jeans pocket. Both registered the same amount of steps as when I walked with it on my wrist.
Pros: Easy, quick, registers accurate steps.
Cons: Could easily be lost if your pocket doesn't zip, you could forget to put it back on, could leave it in your pocket when you go to wash your clothes. No heart rate data is collected.
Put Fitbit on your belt loop or bra strap. Another popular solution to this Fitbit problem is to strap your wrist model Fitbit to your clothes rather than your wrist. This also works and can be a little more secure than the pocket method.
Pros: Registers accurate steps, more secure than unzipped pocket.
Cons: Depending on the clasp on your model (two prong versus watch clasp) it could still pop off and get lost or be thrown in the wash. No heart rate data collected.
Put Fitbit on your Ankle. My friend Herchel taught me this tip when we were talking about biking with a Fitbit. She said she straps hers to her ankle, which I had never considered. If your Fitbit band fits around your ankle, this does work and you have the added bonus of tucking it in your sock to keep it secure.
Pros: Counts steps accurately, more secure than other places on your body if tucked into your sock. Won't get tossed in the laundry with your clothes.
Cons: Your Fitbit band may not fit your ankle. (My Small size Charge 2 doesn't fit my ankle!) Even if it is secured it may fall off without you noticing. Unsure if heart rate tracking works in this position.
UPDATE: Turns out there are a ton of fitbit ankle bands on the market specifically address this issue! That helps with the fit AND makes them more secure for sure.
Log it later. Did you know that you can add an activity after the fact? This is also handy if you go for a run but forgot your Fitbit at home or if the battery dies while you're running. To log a walk, open your Fitbit app, and hit the + button at the bottom of the screen. Tap Track Exercise, then at the top of the screen slide the selector from Track to Log. Search for walking or running, then select the criteria that you know (time, distance, pace). The Fitbit app will add steps for you based on that data.
Pros: Easy, quick. Heart rate data is still collected if your Fitbit is on your wrist.
Cons: Not 100% accurate since it is based on a formula rather than actual activity. If you are competing in a challenge with a cash prize, adding steps this way may not count or may subject your entry to scrutiny. You have to remember to log these and you might forget. You also have to know the data from your exercise. You probably don't know the distance and pace from a grocery shopping trip, but you probably do know how long it took to go for a 2 mile stroller walk so you will have to gauge if this will work for your situation. Technically speaking, you could double count steps if your Fitbit also registers steps during that workout, so please don't cheat your Fitbit with this method, you're only hurting your real progress.
Track by Built-in GPS. Some Fitbit models can track by GPS so that is another way to track your stationary-arm activities.
Pros: Accurate, built in to some models which makes it easy. Heart rate date is collected since you don't need to remove your Fitbit.
Cons: Not all models have GPS. For some you need to remember to switch to GPS mode.
Track by External GPS. There are apps that sync with your Fitbit to allow users without built-in GPS to still track via GPS. Map My Run or Map My Walk are very popular apps that sync easily with Fitbit.
Pros: Easy to use, great tool for runners and fitness walkers. Heart rate data will still be collected by your Fitbit.
Cons: You must manually start and stop tracking in this way, and the app must remain running the whole time. This can use up your mobile phone battery quickly. Monitor to ensure you are not getting twice the credit for those steps.
What do you think? Will one of these hacks help you with your uncounted Fitbit steps? What am I missing? What do you do to get Fitbit steps when you push a stroller?