We spent our Memorial Day afternoon hanging out with friends. Kelly took the kids to the local park to meet our friends while I walked to the nearby barber to get a long-overdue haircut. From the barber I walked to the park to meet-up with everyone. After a while, we decided to get something to eat and walked to a nearby Mexican restaurant. Lots of margaritas were consumed and great fun was had by all.
But yesterday evening, when I looked at my FitBit data, I noticed something strange. Although the walk to the Mexican Restaurant was about 1-1/2 miles each way, it seemed that my FitBit Flex had not captured those steps. It had captured the steps when I’d done roughly the same walk a week ago. Here is a profile of my steps for last Sunday:
The red arrows indicate the to- and from- of my walk last Sunday. You can see that I started my walk just before 10am. I walked about 2 miles, took a break (that small red line in between the tall green lines) and then walked back. Now, take a look at roughly the same walk yesterday:
I’ve indicated where I walked to get my haircut and then to the part. The two arrows with question marks are where we all walked to the restaurant. Notice there is almost no steps recorded during nearly 3 miles of walking. But then, at around 6pm, my walk to the nearby grocery store is captured.
I was a little annoyed to lose those steps, and it occurred to me that my steps over the weekend, despite doing a lot of walking, seemed unnaturally low. So I started thinking if there was anything in common during those times when the steps were not captured. And there was!
During the time we walked to- and from- the restaurant yesterday, I was pushing a stroller. I was also pushing a stroller quite a bit over the weekend. But I was not pushing the stroller when I walked to get my haircut or when I walked to the grocery store. It seems to me, therefore, that the FitBit Flex has some problems capturing steps when the arm on which you wear it is fairly steady–as when you are gripping the handle of a stroller or shopping cart.
I planned to contact FitBit about this but checked their FAQs first, and found this tidbit in their accuracy FAQ:
Will Flex count steps when I’m pushing a stroller or a shopping cart?
Flex will count your steps when you are pushing a stroller or a shopping cart as we do want to give you credit for this activity. That said, because your hands are not moving, your step count may be a bit lower during this activity.
Although it is a little frustrating to lose all of those steps (I’d estimate that over the weekend, in excess of 8,000 steps are missing from my data because I was pushing a stroller), it was interesting to make and confirm this discovery entirely from the data and independent of the FAQ. The fix is pretty easy–push the stroller with one hand. And most importantly, I know that while FitBit reported my activity was lower, I was still getting the exercise I need.