When every fitness tracker company has its own secret recipe, it can be hard to know who is "right" when it comes to tracking metrics like distance and calories – and who's way off. It's possible to test some of these measurements yourself by, say, simply comparing your own step count against your device, but ideally you want to be able to know you can rely on what you're being told.
That's why it's important that one of the first things you do with any fitness tracker or smartwatch when you get it set up is calibrate it, to ensure it's getting the most accurate read. Handily, a lot of them let you do this, or at least let you make a few small changes that will guarantee your wearable is tracking to the best of its abilities.
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Fitbit offers a few ways to tweak the algorithm to ensure better accuracy, and we've laid out a few tips below to make sure you've calibrated your new device as best you can.
Set your stride length
If you're finding your Fitbit is way off mark with tracking distance or steps, adjusting your stride length will help. Even if it's generally accurate, setting a manual stride length will ensure you're not overestimating or underestimating your daily activity and workouts.
From the Dashboard, tap on the Account icon at the top right, then scroll down to Advanced Settings and you'll see the option for Stride Length. If you haven't changed this before then you'll most likely find it's toggled to be set automatically, which adjusts when you go running with GPS enabled. But if you're finding that the results are wildly off the mark, this is probably why.
Toggle it off and you'll be able to set these distances manually. If you already know your stride length, great! If not, you can work it out by walking (or running) over a short distance and then dividing that total distance by the number of steps taken. You can enter different stride lengths for running and walking, so make sure you do.
Calibrate exercise detection
Fitbit uses a feature called SmartTrack on all devices other than the Charge, Flex, One, and Zip. This automatically detects workouts including walking, running, cycling and even swimming. By going into your Account and then into Exercise, you can tweak how long Fitbit will wait to kick in tracking when it automatically detects an exercise is happening.
The shortest amount of time you can set this for is 10 minutes, but don't worry, any exercise you do in those first few minutes will still be accounted for. However if you find auto-tracking isn't working quite right, even once you've adjusted the time, you can turn it off for each exercise individually.
Did you know you can calibrate your Fitbit for sleep too, even if you don't have the advanced Sleep Stages and Sleep Insights features? Again, head into the Advanced Settings and you'll find an option for Sleep Sensitivity, which will be set to 'Normal' by default.
If you're finding that sleep tracking is producing some odd results, you can change this to 'Sensitive'. See if that makes for more accurate tracking.
Heading into the pool?
If you want to track a swim, make sure you've calibrated your tracker to the length of the pool. If you're using the Fitbit Flex 2, you can do this by going into your Account and then into Advanced Settings where you'll see an option to adjust the pool length.
On the Ionic, you can do this before each swim on the watch itself by tapping the cog icon at the top left of the screen (as shown above) and adjusting the distance. Make sure you do to ensure the best accuracy.
One last thing…
A small one, but still important: make sure you tell the app which wrist you're wearing your Fitbit on. You can do this by going into the device settings – you should see an option for Wrist at the top. Tap on that and tell it whether you're wearing your tracker on your dominant or non-dominant hand. It's a little thing, but it could make a marked difference in accuracy.
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