Thursday, December 2, 2021
Daily TipsWatch

How to Calibrate Apple Watch Step Tracking

Does your Apple Watch accurately count the number of steps you take each day? A friend of mine complained that her new Apple Watch showed consistently fewer steps than her old pedometer, so she asked me to find out what was wrong. In this post, I’ll describe some common situations that cause Apple Watches to miscount steps, and how to calibrate Apple Watch Step Tracking.

What Can Make Apple Watches Miscount Steps?

There are a few things that you can do to ensure that your Apple Watch can count steps accurately. These may sound unimportant, but they do make a difference!

Make Sure Your Apple Watch is Snug

Step count accuracy needs a Watch that’s able to feel the movement of your arm without any extra “flopping around”. The Watch should be snug on your wrist. Don’t make it so tight that you’re losing circulation, but also not so loose that your Watch slides on your arm.

Check Personal Data in the Health App

When your Watch estimates a stride length, it does so by using personal data such as height and weight. A tall person takes longer strides than a short one, and a heavier person takes shorter strides than a lighter human would.

Launch the Health app on your iPhone. On the Summary page, tap the blue link titled “Show All Health Data”.

Scroll down to Weight. Those with connected scales (like Withings, Fitbit, Garmin, Eufy) that are added to Health as a data source should see their most recent weight reading listed. If not, add the connected scale.

For those who aren’t using connected scales, tap Weight, then tap Add Data (outlined in red below) to enter your latest weight.

Add your current weight to All Health Data if it is not up to date

The other factor is your Height. Continue scrolling until you find the listing for Height. Tap it, then tap Add Data to enter an accurate height.

Make sure your height data is correct

Want to see what the Apple Watch and Health app consider to be your average step length? Scroll down and tap on Step Length. That’s the distance between your front and back foot when you’re walking. The longer that length, the better your long term mobility outlook is.

Calibrating the Apple Watch Step Tracker

To calibrate the step tracker, you need to take a walk or run. Before you do that, ensure that your Location Services settings allow your Apple Watch to measure your distance walked or run via GPS.

Checking Location Services Settings

Launch Settings on your iPhone, then scroll down to Privacy and tap it. At the top of the screen is a listing for Location Services. Tap it, and if the button on the next screen shows “Off”, tap it to turn Location Services On.

Make sure Location Services are enabled for Apple Watch Workout

Scroll down to the list of apps using Location Services. One of those is Apple Watch Workout. Make sure that it’s showing “While Using,” which means the Apple Watch can track your location and distance moved while you’re working out.

If it’s “Never”, then tap on Apple Watch Workout and select “While using the app”.

Take a Walk (or Run)

Whoever thought that a calibration process could be good for you? You need to take a 20 minute walk or run. You don’t need to do it all at once, so if your current fitness level doesn’t allow you to take a 20 minute walk or run, break it up into shorter sessions that add up to 20 minutes.

Run or walk somewhere that is relatively flat, with good GPS reception, and preferably on a cloudless day. For those who have an original or Series 1 Apple Watch, make sure you take your iPhone with you. Newer Apple Watches don’t need an iPhone nearby in order to capture location data.

Let’s calibrate!

Launch the Workout app on the Apple Watch.

Tap the Workout app button (circled in red)

Next, tap the Outdoor Run or Outdoor Walk workout, then tap the three dots (…) button.

Tap the three dots to set a timed goal for an outside walk or run

Now, tap the Time button and use the + and – buttons to set a 20 minute walk or run.

Tap Time to create a 20-minute timed workout

Begin the workout by tapping Start.

Once the timed workout is set, tap Start to begin your walk or run

Each successive time you run or walk, the Apple Watch calibrates. The more you work out using the Apple Watch, the more accurate the step counter becomes.

Still Not Working Properly? Reset Fitness Calibration Data

Perhaps you’ve tried the tips here and you still don’t feel that the Step Tracking is accurate. The best thing to do in that case is to Reset Fitness Calibration Data (see image below).

Launch the Watch app on your iPhone, then scroll down to Privacy and tap it. Tap Reset Fitness Calibration Data.

A dialog appears asking if you’re sure you want to permanently delete the calibration data and history. Tap Reset Fitness Calibration Data (see image below).

Tap Reset Fitness Calibration Data to delete calibration data and history

Once the data has been deleted, go back to the Take a Walk (or Run) section of this article and do your calibration workout.

The accuracy of your Apple Watch step tracker should improve by taking these simple steps. Now get out there and exercise!

the authorSteve Sande
Steve is the founder and former publisher of Apple World Today and has authored a number of books about Apple products. He's an avid photographer, an FAA-licensed drone pilot, and a really bad guitarist. Steve and his wife Barb love to travel everywhere!

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