Help! Why Is My Garmin Not Tracking My Steps?

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In an article published in 2017 in the International Journal of Exercise Science, a team of scientists from the Campbell University concluded that “Wrist-worn Physical Activity Trackers Tended to Underestimate Steps During Walking.” 

They tested the accuracy of various wrist-worn devices in measuring the number of steps. The US standards allow for a difference of up to 10% between the actual number of steps and those recorded by Fitness trackers or Smartwatches. 

Out of all the evaluated devices, the Fitbit Charge HR had the weakest performance, while the Garmin Vivosmart had the best one.

So, if you are the lucky owner of a Garmin device, should you be satisfied with the results and just let your activity tracking device do the job?

Your Garmin may somehow not detect your steps consistently and accurately. This is because electronic devices are what they are, and the built-in accelerometer may gets confused or you may not walk the “smartwatch way.” More on that later.

This article will guide you through the steps you need to take to ensure your Garmin watch track the steps you walk accurately and truly acts as the health and fitness device it should be.

Is Your Garmin Overcounting the Number of Steps?

The first thing to understand to solve a step counting problem is How Garmin track steps. Believe it or not, your Garmin tracker is not interested in your feet but does care about your arms movements. This makes sense as you will most likely wear your smartwatch or fitness tracker on your wrist and not on your ankle.

By relying on its three-axis accelerometer, your Garmin will track the movements of your arms and will then extract the number of steps. According to Garmin, a full arm swing will correspond to 2 steps…which makes sense when you think about it. 

The main problem is that we are not robots and do not only swing our arms while walking—the repetitive movements done while brushing our teeth may then count as steps. We always advise you not to take a shower while wearing your watch or tracker, but if you do, washing may be counted as a step. It goes the same way when driving a car on a bumpy road. The vibration may be similar to a full swing of arms and mess up your step count.

Is Your Garmin Undercounting Your Steps?

As a Garmin Step Tracker is designed to track the arm’s movements, the lack of arm swings will lead to steps undercounting. 

There are many circumstances during which you are moving, but your arms do not. Among some examples, we can mention:

  • pushing a trolley or pram,
  • walking on a treadmill while holding the front bar,
  • walking your dog with a leash or
  • lawn mowing…and so many more

What Should You Do if You Move Your Arms by Your Garmin Does Not Record Steps?

A Garmin Fenix, Instinct, or Vivosmart is a delicate piece of technology, and as with any technology, things can go wrong eventually. If you are walking with your arms swinging usually, but your device does not record steps, you should try a couple of tips that may solve the issue.

Check that Activity Tracking Is Turned On

This is, of course, a prerequisite. For your Garmin to detect movements, activity tracking should be turned on. Depending on the device, the procedure may be slightly different, and we recommend that you check on the Garmin website the tracking specificities of your device. 

If you do not have the patience to check, we got you covered and recommend that you follow these simples steps:

  1. Open the Garmin Connect App,
  2. Press on the “More” icon on the bottom right of the screen,
  3. Then press on “My Device” and select the one you are currently using in case you are the lucky owner of several Garmin devices,
  4. Press on “Activity Tracking” and make sure that it is set to automatic, the default setting.

Make Sure that Your Software Is up To Date

This is an easy step. The latest software will be automatically downloaded when you open the Garmin Connect on your phone. So don’t worry too much about that.

Restart Your Watch

Here again, the procedure will be slightly different depending on the device. You should check your specific user manual. If you lost it and do not know where it is, consult the Garmin Website

Contact Garmin Support

If none of the tips we provided solved the steps tracking issue you face, we recommend that you contact Garmin Support Center. Garmin devices are robust and reliable, but technical issues happen, and your device may be faulty. 

How to Define a Garmin Custom Stride Length?

We are not built the same, meaning our stride lengths will differ. For example, my former boss was 6.6 feet tall, and with my 5.8 height, I still remember that I had nearly had to run when I was walking with him to keep up with his pace.

It goes the same way for your Garmin. Even if the number of steps is relatively accurate, you can ensure that the distance won’t be. An easy way to get distances closer to the reality of your stride length is to make a test by yourself and enter the results. This is the best way to ensure that the distance associated with the number of steps done in a day will be accurately measured.

We will take the Garmin Vivowatch 5 as an example, but it goes the same way with the other models.

The easiest way to enter your custom stride length is to use the Garmin Connect App. You have to follow the steps below:

  1. Open the Garmin Connect App on your smartphone, iOS, or Android
  2. On the “My Day” screen, tap on the bottom right icon that says “More”
  3. From the “Screen,” tap on “Settings.”
  4. And on “User Settings” to access the customization screen. Look for “Custom Stride Length” you may have to swipe the screen down to see it.
  5. From there, activate walking and enter the parameters. To do so, you will need to walk at least 400 meters. Garmin recommend 800 meters for accurate measurement of the stride length. Enter the predefined distance as well as the number of steps. 
  6. That is it. Your Garmin will then know precisely your stride length and will use it to measure the distance covered depending on your step count.

To Wrap Up

Tracking steps accurately is the least you can expect from a Garmin fitness tracker or smartwatch. We hope that you found this article interesting and that you will be able to make the most of your device to stay fit an