How a Fitbit is able to accurately track your movement, and how to check your step count on it

Hollis Johnson/Business InsiderOne of the FitBit’s most basic functions is its ability to track your steps.
  • Your Fitbit uses a three-axis accelerometer to count how many steps you take each day, converting recorded motion into reviewable data.
  • Fitbits are often less accurate in tracking distance travelled and calories burned, but the step counter is considered reliable.
  • A few activities, like playing the drums or riding on a bumpy road, might give a false step count, so consider removing your Fitbit for these and similar activities.
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Health experts have long touted the benefits of getting at least two to three hours of moderate exercise each week, and for most adults, walking at a pace of at least three miles per hour meets the baseline for that level of an aerobic workout. The other common metric used is the 10,000 steps per day goal.

If you log at least 10,000 steps each day, say many experts, you will be doing your long-term health a favour. Go for 15,000 or more, and all the better. But short of counting every step you take during the course of the day or during a single long walk, how do you know how many steps you have taken?

Why, the trusty Fitbit there on your wrist, of course, which tracks your steps, heart rate, sleep cycles, and more. Here’s how it counts your steps.

Fitbit track stepsFitbitYour FitBit keeps a relatively accurate count of how many steps you take every day.

How a Fitbit tracks your step count

Fitbits feature a three-axis accelerometer. They can tell when they are moving forward and backward, side to side, and up or down – e.g., moving in three dimensions. And by crunching the movement data recorded, your Fitbit can tell if you were walking (or running) along or simply tapping your hand on a desk.

The Fitbit uses complex algorithms to tell when you are in motion on your own two feet vs. when you are, say, in a vehicle, or are moving your arms but overall motionless. It rules out motions it determines weren’t steps, so your step count at day’s end will be remarkably accurate.

How to check your step count on a Fitbit

To see how many steps you logged at the end of the day, first push the main button on the side of the Fitbit. Now you can push the side button repeatedly, or tap the screen to move to different stats.

You can also open the paired Fitbit app on your phone or access your dashboard on a computer, to view both your daily step log and step history. Go to the “Activities” tab, then click “Today,” or choose a date range.

Fitbit track stepsFitbitOnce paired, your phone can display all the data tracked on your FitBit.

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