I like exercising outdoors; I really do. But some days, I just can’t step out and work up a sweat, like when it’s raining heavily or too hot. That is when I fire up my treadmill and get moving. And I’m not the only one. Many of the 60 million+ people who own treadmills bought the machines because the outdoors aren’t always as enticing as they sound.
That said, most people who use smartwatches to track workouts report inaccuracy issues where treadmills are concerned. I faced this issue the first time I used my Fitbit Charge 5 to count steps and measure distance while exercising on my machine. At the end of the session, my treadmill and fitness trackers displayed different numbers. It was mind-boggling.
Is the same issue bothering you? It’s solvable. Read this article till the end. You’ll discover indispensable tips for making your Fitbit work on a treadmill and boosting its accuracy.
How Does Fitbit Track You When on a Treadmill?
Your Fitbit doesn’t work the same as a treadmill. Whereas the latter determines your steps and pace by counting the number of times your foot lands on the machine’s surface, your Fitbit smartwatch mostly factors in arm movement. Some devices also include stride length. So, if you hold onto a treadmill’s handrails, the smartwatch won’t count your steps correctly.
Tricks to Make Your Fitbit Work on Treadmill
Try the hacks outlined below if your Fitbit doesn’t work on a Treadmill or is wildly inaccurate. I’ve used them over the years with different gadgets, including Fitbit Charge 5.
1. Add Treadmill Mode to Your Exercise Options
Fitbits, like Versa 2 and Versa Lite, come with the treadmill exercise mode. If your gadget comes with this function, just activate it before getting on your treadmill.
For instance, if you have a Versa, open the Exercise app and swipe until you find “Treadmill”. Select this mode by tapping it. Then click the play icon. You can view your real-time stats by tapping the middle of your screen. Tap the icon again once you’re done or want to take a breather. Most Fitbits require users to follow these steps to activate Treadmill Mode.
2. Wear Your Smartwatch on Your Ankle
I often wear my Fitbit on the wrist because, well, that’s how it should be done, right? Plus, it makes checking time and monitoring stats easier. Not to forget, I’ve owned a few Fitbit gadgets that looked more like jewelry than fitness trackers. Each time I rocked them on my wrist, they complimented my style and made me look fabulous.
But over the years, I’ve discovered wearing a Fitbit on my wrist while exercising leads to accuracy issues. As a result, I’ve resorted to wearing my smartwatch primarily on my ankle, and the step count is more accurate. You should try this trick. Also, if you want your gadget to continue tracking heart rate while exercising on the treadmill, wear it on the inside of your ankle. That will enable the heart rate sensor to be closer to major arteries.
3. Calibrate Your Stride Length
You can also boost your Fitbit’s accuracy by calibrating the stride length. That is crucial because, as I mentioned earlier, some gadgets use stride length to count steps, especially when the GPS is off.
To calibrate stride length, open the Fitbit app, find the “Today” tab, and tap it. Then, enter account settings by clicking on your profile image. Scroll down until you reach “Activity & Wellness”. It should be under the listed Fitbit devices. Click it and select “Exercise”. Scroll down again until you find “Stride Length”. Adjust accordingly.
But to adjust Stride Length, you must know your actual stride length. How do you measure that?
Go to your yard and measure a specific distance. It should be more than 50 feet because the average person’s step length is 2.5 feet, and for optimum accuracy, you need to take at least 20 steps. Walk the distance at your natural pace and count the steps. Once you reach the end, divide the distance you’ve covered by the steps you’ve counted. That is how you get your walking stride length. To calculate your running stride length, repeat the process. But instead of walking, run the marked distance.
4. Turn Off the GPS
Most Fitbits use GPS to track the wearer’s route and measure their pace and distance. But this feature won’t be helpful while you’re on a treadmill. That is because it’s mainly tailored for tracking outdoor movement. So, while exercising indoors, turn off the GPS.
The exact process for disabling GPS depends on your smartwatch. If you have a Fitbit Charge 5 like mine, just go to the Exercise app, find the Treadmill Mode, and select it. Swipe through the settings until you find GPS, and turn it off. If you have any other Fitbit product, check the exact steps from the official Fitbit site.
5. Wear Your Fitbit on Your Dominant Arm
I use my right hand to perform most tasks, making it my dominant hand. But yours might be the left one. Remember, 10% of all people are left-handed. If you don’t know which of your hands is dominant, fold your arms. The uppermost one is your dominant hand.
While exercising on your treadmill, wear your Fitbit on the dominant hand. Why? Your dominant arm is more active, and since most Fitbits use hand movement to track workouts, the dominant one is more likely to yield accurate results.
6. Keep Moving Your Arms
Last but not least, if you decide to wear your Fitbit on your wrist while exercising on a treadmill, keep your arms moving. Don’t let your arms rest by your side because the gadget will assume you’re stationary. The same applies to holding onto the rails.
Besides preventing your smartwatch from correctly counting steps, holding onto your treadmill’s rails while working out is a bad idea for various other reasons. For starters, it denies your lower back the opportunity to be involved in the workout and become stronger. It also ruins posture and reduces the number of calories you burn during every workout session.
Is Treadmill or Fitbit More Accurate for Distance?
Check the following comments from experts:
“Treadmills can be pretty accurate with distance if they are well-calibrated. However, each machine can vary slightly so it’s important to check periodically that your treadmill isn’t under or overestimating distance.” – John Smith, certified personal trainer
“One study of the Fitbit Charge 2 found it was accurate to within 4% of distances directly measured on a track. Results can vary based on activity type, so validation during your typical workouts is recommended.” – Dr. Shelley Zhao, biomedical engineer
Generally, the treadmill is more accurate in measuring distances than a Fitbit. The reason is, a treadmill calculates distances by the revolutions made by the belt. On the other hand, your Fitbit may estimate the distance using factors like stride length and arm swing, which may change as you work out.
Why Does My Watch Say a Different Distance Than the Treadmill?
Your Fitbit and treadmill may show different distances for various reasons, including:
As I said earlier, both use different criteria to calculate distance.
- Some treadmills are inaccurate.
- You like to hold the handrails while exercising on your treadmill.
- You don’t swing your arms as much as you need to.
- You swing your arms too wildly.
Most Fitbits can track workouts on a treadmill, but the results are often inaccurate. I’ve suggested ways to boost your gadget’s accuracy while exercising on a treadmill. First, add and activate Treadmill Mode on your smartwatch, then work your way through the list.
And remember, one of the reasons why your Fitbit shows different stats compared to your treadmill is inaccuracy issues in the latter. So, ensure you calibrate your treadmill as often as possible.
Can I use my Fitbit on a treadmill?
Yes, Fitbits work great for tracking your exercise on a treadmill! They use motion sensors to detect your steps, distance, calories burned, floors climbed, and heart rate during indoor treadmill walking or running.
What metrics does a Fitbit track on a treadmill?
Fitbits can track a variety of treadmill workout metrics including steps taken, distance covered, calories burned, heart rate, and total workout duration. Higher-end models like the Fitbit Charge also provide real-time pace and speed data.
Is the distance accurate on a treadmill?
Yes, Fitbit distance tracking is generally very accurate on treadmills, assuming the treadmill itself is calibrated properly. Fitbits use motion sensors and customized algorithms to estimate distance traveled based on your height, weight, and stride length. Comparing Fitbit data to the treadmill display helps identify any accuracy issues.
Do I need GPS for treadmill tracking?
No, you do not need GPS for Fitbit to track your treadmill workout data. Fitbits rely on internal motion sensors like accelerometers rather than GPS when indoors. GPS connectivity improves outdoor tracking accuracy but is not required on a treadmill.
How do I start a treadmill workout on my Fitbit?
Open the Exercise app on your Fitbit tracker, scroll to Treadmill, and tap to select it. Tap the Play icon to begin tracking. For manual tracking, you can log the treadmill workout in the Fitbit app after completing it.
Will treadmill elevation and inclination be tracked?
Unfortunately, Fitbit does not automatically track treadmill elevation or inclines. You can manually log the incline and total floors climbed in the exercise summary within the Fitbit app after your workout.
Do I need to calibrate my Fitbit for the treadmill?
It’s not mandatory, but calibrating your Fitbit by entering your height, weight, and stride length in the app will improve treadmill tracking accuracy. You can fine-tune the stride length even more by comparing Fitbit distance to the treadmill readout over one mile.