Digital Life Central is reader-powered. We are a participant in the Amazon LLC Associates Program and other affiliates programs. As an Amazon affiliate, we earn from qualifying purchases.
Fitbit is, without a doubt making great devices that go much beyond step tracking. The new models such as the Charge 5 or Fitbit Sense are real health powerhouses that let users check their blood oxygen saturation, stress levels, sleep patterns, heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV), and even electrocardiogram to detect potential arrhythmia.
Sometimes, we are only interested in relatively simple metrics…such as the number of floors we climbed on a given day. Knowing that you walked more than 10,000 steps is great, but if you are like me, you try to avoid elevators and climb a couple of stairs to go to your office or house instead.
According to the Mayo Clinic, stepping up and down the stairs is a physical exercise that can keep you fit, help you burn calories, and even lose weight. Fifteen minutes of stairs climbing is enough to burn 65 calories, which is good. Increased calorie expenditure can be achieved by moving at a quicker speed.
This article will guide you through making the most of stairs climbing and keeping track of it with your Fitbit on your wrist. How to make sure that the floors count is accurate and how to fix it if it is not.
But, at first, we need to make sure that the Fitbit you own has the built-in sensor, hence a barometer acting as an altimeter, to track stairs and floor climbing.
How does a Fitbit count the flights of stairs?
Fitbit devices detect that you climb flights of stairs based on the pressure of the surrounding atmosphere. This may sound weird, but Fitbit uses an altimeter in the same way a plane will do to define what is the altitude.
An altimeter measures height, the distance between a point and sea level. Most of the altimeters are barometric, which means that they estimate height by calculating the air pressure at the site in question. As altitude climbs, the pressure of the surrounding air falls.
Fitbit barometric sensor will detect the altitude by measuring the pressure of the surrounding atmosphere. Fitbit estimates that an elevation gain of 10 feet corresponds to an increase of one level. Ten feet correspond to the average floor height between residential and commercial buildings in the United States.
Considering that some Fitbit includes a built-in GPS, you may wonder why the GPS is not used to extrapolate the number of stairs climbed. The simple answer is that the vertical error is three times greater than the horizontal error, making it far from accurate. On top of that, most of the stairs are inside a building with all of the GPS signal reception issues that come with it.
So even if a barometer is not ideal, it is somehow better than the GPS of your Fitbit device or phone. Don’t forget that GPS needs time to detect the satellites and is very power-hungry…so for preserving the battery life, a barometric sensor is the obvious choice.
What are the Fitbit wearables that count floors?
Now that we understand how a Fitbit tracker will detect a flight of stairs let’s go back to our initial question: What are the Fitbit Fitness Trackers that detect the air pressure?
Unfortunately, not all of Fitbit include such sensors. Only the Sense, Charge 4, Versa 3 and 2, and Ionic include a barometric sensor and the ability to count floors. So it is hard for us to understand why some of the more recent fitness trackers of the brand, such as the Charge 5 and Luxe, do not include one.
If you want to make sure that your Fitbit includes such a feature, open the Fitbit App, Tap on the Today Icon, and the Edit button. If you see the stairs icon, you are good to go for a couple of flights of stairs; otherwise, don’t worry too much as we will see the accuracy of the floor detection is not as good as what we could have expected.
Why can the floors count be wrong?
Numerous users report that the Fitbit stairs or floors count is highly inaccurate and that just taking a moving staircase or climbing a hill can shoot up your results. When thinking about it, it makes sense. As the Fitbit barometer measures air pressure, the sensor can be fooled as long as you move upward.
Even a change in the air pressure, such as a change in weather or driving a car, can lead to incorrect results. For example, Fitbit Versa 3 users complained loudly about issues in recording stairs count. Fitbit even acknowledged that they were aware of the accuracy issue and worked on a fix without somehow providing any timeline.
How to improve the Floors count accuracy?
As we mentioned, measuring air pressure to detect elevation works perfectly for airplanes, but a fitness tracker and a flight of stairs can hardly be compared to a transatlantic flight.
In case you get incorrect results, there are somehow simple tricks that could help:
- You must ensure that you are climbing at least 10 feet in elevation for it to record a floor.
- To increase the accuracy of your tracker, it is recommended that you restart your tracker to refresh the internal logs.
- Excessive moisture exposure might also result in additional floors to the count. Sweat or water can briefly obstruct the passage leading to the altimeter on the rear of your tracker, causing it to malfunction temporarily. During exercising, we recommend that you wear your tracker loosely.
- Finally, cleaning your smartwatch or Fitness tracker regularly can help.