The short answer? YES, your fitbit works perfectly on a treadmill.
However, the treadmill and the fitbit may mismatch and give different readings.
While your fitbit is congratulating you for hitting the daily target of 10,000 steps, the treadmill is 100 steps short. This begs the question: does fitbit work on a treadmill?
With a few tricks and tips, you can actually minimize such inaccuracies between the treadmill and fitbit.
But let's start by looking at the working mechanisms of both the treadmill and the fitbit. This helps you understand the differences between the two.
How Fitbit Works?
Fitbit uses sensors to measure your hand movements, up-and-down bounces, body inclination, and heart rate. All these give you various readings:
- Steps moved
- Distance covered
- Calories burned
- Heart rate
- Speed etc.
The science behind the fitbit uses 4 principles: an accelerometer, a GPS, a gyroscope, and an altimeter.
While the accelerometer is responsible for your steps, speed and distance you cover, the altimeter measures your bounces and inclinations.
The gyroscope is more like the accelerometer but gives more accurate results based on a 6-point axis. The accelerometer tracks your steps on a 3-point axis.
The GPS comes in when measuring the distance you've covered. The GPS connects your wearable fitbit to a satellite that calculates the distance you've walked or ran.
However, when using the treadmill, the GPS is supposed to go off. That's because you're no longer covering any distance, which is why you need to set your fitbit into a treadmill mode.
Actually, it's this GPS feature that's responsible for mismatched accuracy between the treadmill and fitbit. But more on that later.
How the Treadmill Measures Your Steps
Unlike fitbit, the treadmill is simple. It doesn't use GPS or gyroscope. The treadmill only counts the number of steps you make based on how much time you spend on the treadmill.
The treadmill doesn't use sensors to detect your hand movements, but only the steps you make using your feet. This makes the treadmill kinda more accurate than the fitbit, especially in tracking your steps.
However, the treadmill falls short in measuring your heart rate and doesn't tell you the calories you've burned. And that's why you need the fitbit to work perfectly with your treadmill.
What Causes the Mismatch Between the Fitbit and the Treadmill?
As we've already mentioned, one of the reasons is the GPS capability of the fitbit. If you don't set your wearable fitbit to "treadmill" mode, the GPS will still be on. This then confuses the gadget into thinking you're walking or running outside.
Therefore, when measuring your steps and pace, the fitbit will try to put the "distance" aspect into account. This affects accuracy.
Luckily, this isn't much of a problem. All you have to do is set the fitbit into the treadmill mode.
Putting the GPS aside, the main culprits to the inaccuracies between the treadmill and the fitbit are two things - hand movements and stride length.
The fitbit tracking technology relies on your hand movements. The gadget assumes you're walking or running.
But when you're on a treadmill, you tend to hold onto the treadmill, which means the wearable gadget thinks you're at standstill, hence the mismatched readings.
Your stride length also causes such mismatches. When on a treadmill, your strides tend to be shorter than the strides compared to when taking a walk outside. And because of this, you'll see different readings on your fitbit.
Therefore, to counter and correct the inaccuracies between the treadmill and the fitbit, you'll need three simple tricks, which are based off the hand movement, stride length and fitbit's GPS capability.
So let's go ahead and look at these 3 tips and tricks.
Three (3) Simple Tricks to Make Your Fitbit Work on Treadmill
To minimize any inaccuracies between your fitbit and a treadmill, simply add the "treadmill" option, recalibrate your stride length, and (if you still don't get accurate readings) wear the fitbit on your ankle.
Let's elaborate further on this.
a) Add the “Treadmill” option on your fitbit
This is to solve the issue of inaccuracies caused due to the GPS capability. With the treadmill mode, the GPS is turned off so it doesn't give wrong step trackings.
Go to your fitbit app, open the "settings" section, then click on "exercises" where you'll see 6 preset options.
To add the "treadmill" option, hold and long-press on one of the preset exercise options and delete (or simply swipe left).
Once deleted, you'll see a plus (+) sign on the top right corner. This lets you add the "treadmill" mode.
Confirm you've added the treadmill mode by checking if it appears on your fitbit wearable gadget.
b) Setting and recalibrating your stride length on your fitbit
Your strides tend to be different when you walk outside and when you're on a treadmill. It's either longer or shorter. For most folks, it's always shorter on the treadmill.
You need to change this. Here are the steps.
- Go to your fitbit app and click on "Today" tab, which is where you'll see your profile picture or avatar.
- Click on the profile pic and go to "Account Settings."
- Then scroll down until you reach "Activity and Wellness"
- Click on "Exercises"
Scroll once again until you find the "Stride Length" tab. Here you have the option to change your stride length for both running and walking.
But wait… how do you know your stride length?
All you have to do is measure and mark a specific distance and then walk it at your natural pace, counting the number of steps you take.
Then divide the distance by the number of steps you took to calculate the length of each step. Then repeat the test but run the distance instead of walking.
Basically, the default stride length for men is 22 inches and 30 inches for women. But this varies depending on height and the activity you're doing, either running or walking.
A simpler way to calculate your stride length is by multiplying your height by 0.413 or alternatively use a pedometer app.
c) Wear the fitbit on your ankle
This is more of a bonus trick because the first two should give you accurate tracking on your fitbit.
Because the fitbit relies on hand movements to record the steps of walking, while on the treadmill, this can give different results.
That's why it's best to wear it on your ankles. The only downside with this is that the fitbit may not keep track of your heart rate. Luckily there's a trick to this.
Make sure you wear the fitbit right above the "inside" bone of your ankle. That's where the blood vessels are closer to the surface.
If your ankles are puffier, slowly move the gadget slightly higher until you can see heart rate tracking.
Here are a few commonly asked questions on fitbit and treadmill.
1. I’ve tried setting my fitbit to a treadmill mode but I can’t find it among the exercise options. How do I solve this?
Go to your fitbit app and access the settings, then click on "exercises" where you'll find the list of default exercises.
The treadmill may not be on the default lists. That means you have to remove one of the defaults and replace it with a treadmill.
Just hold and long-press one of the options you want to remove and click on delete. Or you can simply swipe left.
You'll see a plus sign at the top. This lets you add an extra exercise. Here you'll see the treadmill option.
2. When working out on a treadmill, my fitbit doesn’t record my steps when I hold on to the railing. How do I get it to work?
That means you've not set your fitbit into treadmill mode. When you hold onto the railing, the fitbit stops working because it relies on hand movements to track your steps. So make sure your fitbit's mode is on "treadmill"
You can also tie the gadget on your ankles.
3. Which reading should I trust? Fitbit or treadmill?
The obvious answer should be the treadmill. But it's not that simple.
If keeping a record of your daily steps made isn't of great importance, then go with the treadmill's readings. But most times you'll care for the daily distance you cover. It helps motivate for the next day workout.
Personally, I prefer the fitbit's trackings. And for accuracy, it's best to use the latest and more advanced fitbit models. From my expert experiments, and comparing various fitbit reviews, I highly recommend Fitbit Sense and Versa 3.
You'll have to dig a little bit deeper into your pockets to get them, but they're totally worth it. You can't put a price on accuracy.
4. Why is my fitbit giving me different readings from the treadmill?
It's because fitbit works differently as the treadmill when measuring your steps.
While the treadmill measures your pace, steps, and distance by calculating the number of times your foot touches the treadmill's surface, the fitbit also includes your hand movements and stride length.
The difference in readings depends on the type of fitbit you're using. With the more advanced versions, you'll rarely experience the mismatched readings. It's best to get either of these Fitbit models:
The Inspire and Luxe are pocket friendlier than the Versa 3 and Sense. But not by much. You won't have to break the bank.
Also, make sure you've changed your fitbit exercise setting into the "treadmill" mode otherwise the gadget won't put off the GPS capability, which is required to be off for it to work on the treadmill.
Note: it's always best to turn on your "treadmill" setting BEFORE you set your foot on the treadmill. This enhances accuracy.
I hope this answers your question: does fitbit work on treadmill?
With 3 simple tips, you can make sure your fitbit not only works perfectly on treadmill, but also guarantee accurate steps measurements.
All you have to do is set your fitbit into treadmill mode and recalibrate your stride length. And as a bonus tip, you can wear the fitbit gadget on your ankles.