New Fitbit users commonly ask, “How do I calibrate my average stride length setting?” or “Do I need to calibrate my Fitbit stride settings?” In this tutorial, you will learn how to calibrate stride settings for a Fitbit. The same principals apply to other pedometers and activity tracking devices. Correctly measuring and calibrating your stride improves the accuracy of your Fitbit, pedometer or other activity tracker.
[tweetthis]Is your #Fitbit distance correct? Tips to calibrate. (Also for other #wearable trackers!) [/tweetthis]
Why You Should Calibrate Your Fitbit Stride Settings (Or Should You?)
The Fitbit distance estimate is based on your steps taken, your stride length setting and whether the activity was classed as “walking” or “running” by your Fitbit device. If you do not calibrate your own stride, Fitbit will estimate it based on your height and gender. Some users find Fitbit’s estimate to be “spot on”, while others find it inaccurate.
How do you know which applies to you? Simply take a walk and see. How does your Fitbit distance estimate compare to the actual distance you covered? If it seems accurate, the default estimate may be perfect for you.
The stride length is used to determine the distance covered. According to Fitbit, this does not effect the calorie burn estimate. I must admit, I felt the calorie burn estimate seemed more accurate after I calibrated my settings. This may be because most calorie burn estimates for walking and running are based on distance covered or speed. Improving the Fitbit distance estimate made it easier to compare the Fitbit calorie burn estimate with other sources.
How to Measure and Calibrate Your Average Stride Length
|A running track at a local school, since it is summer, the track was empty!|
Since actual stride length can vary from moment to moment, it can be difficult to get a precise measurement. Your stride may vary depending on the route, the shoes you are wearing, how you feel, and many other factors. As long as you find your average stride length for walking and running, your Fitbit distance will be more accurate (most of the time).
Fitbit allows you to enter two stride settings–one for walking and the second for running. Fitbit decides which stride to apply to your steps based on the movement data. It seems to do this minute by minute–just like it does with the activity minutes (Activity minutes will be covered in a future post). Even if you never run, I recommend calibrating both stride settings. If you do not run, or if you use an alternate method to log your running workouts then I would suggest treating these two settings as a “normal walking” stride and a “brisk, I-am-in-a-hurry” stride. When I only calibrated my walking stride, my distance estimates would be a little too long during brisk walks. I can only guess that Fitbit was classing some of my walking steps as running. Calibrating both settings greatly improved the distance and pace accuracy. Of course, your miles may literally vary.
Before You Begin:
Find a flat, measured route. I highly recommend using a running track. Running tracks are commonly found at local schools, colleges, and parks. Often, if the track isn’t in use for a team practice or class, community members are welcome to use it. Contact your local school, parks and recreation service or college if you are unsure whether this is an option for you. If a track is not available, try a route where you know the distance or use a treadmill. Another option is to use a GPS app to calculate the actual distance; this is my last choice option because I find that my phone GPS app varied from the actual distance when I tested it on a measured running track. Phone GPS isn’t 100% accurate, but it would likely give you a pretty close estimate.
Be sure and wear your Fitbit device in whatever manner is typical for you. This test will calculate the distance you covered per Fitbit counted step.
Stage One Instructions: At The Track…
- Stand still at the starting point, push the Fitbit timer or stopwatch button (for devices that track sleep, it is the exact same function. (Zip users, take note of your step count before you start and check it again when you finish. ) Stand still for a couple of seconds to make sure no steps are counted before you begin.
- Walk your lap using your most natural pace. A longer walk can be more accurate. I found 1 mile ideal, but shorter distances can work too.
3. As soon as you reach the finish point, stop stepping. Press the timer button to end your record. Wait a few seconds to make sure no extra steps are included.
- Repeat the test running or briskly walking (if you won’t be using the Fitbit to estimate your running distance).
Stage Two Instructions: When You Get Home…
Sync your Fitbit. Then go to your Fitbit activity log page. After your Fitbit device synchs to your account, you should have two activity records, one for walking and one for running. Plug the steps that Fitbit recorded into the formula:
Formula to Calculate Average Fitbit Stride Length in Inches:
Sorry metric users, this formula is based on inches and miles. I know you will be able to do the appropriate conversion yourself…
Find the settings option in your Fitbit dashboard, it is in the upper right-hand corner (if accessing from a laptop). See the screenshot below…
|Click on the gray “gear” icon to access your settings.|
Now enter your stride length. Fitbit accepts decimal points in the stride settings. I personally found my distances to be more accurate when I entered my stride length rounded to one decimal point as opposed to rounding it to a whole number. I entered my stride length in feet and inches.
I have been much happier with the accuracy of my Fitbit on distance, pace, speed and activity level estimation since I calibrated my stride length settings. It is important to remember that for most of us, our stride is not static. It may vary by how tired we feel, the ground we cover, what shoes we are wearing and other factors. It also may change over time, so it might be a good idea to retest as you notice changes in fitness level or walking and running technique.
Other Fitbit posts that may interest you:
- Getting Started With Your New Fitbit
- A Detailed Review of the Fitbit One Activity Tracker
- Ten Tips to Increase NEAT Activity
- Choosing The Right Fitbit For You – Questions To Ask Yourself
- How My Fitbit Paid For Itself (Programs That Reward Your Activity)
- Ten Apps That Play Nice With Fitbit
- Setting SMART Goals for Your Fitbit
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