Does Pushing a Stroller Affect FitBit Flex Data Capture?

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:

FitBit Flex - No Stroller

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:

FitBit Flex with Stroller

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.

14 thoughts on “Does Pushing a Stroller Affect FitBit Flex Data Capture?

  1. Just a thought. Can you wear your FitBit device on your ankle, or on a belt loop – then you can keep both hands on the stroller (safety) although you may not get as good a result as a ‘free’ arm it should be better than a ‘tethered’ arm.

    1. Paul, you probably can, but I doubt it is worth it. The only reason I discovered the anomaly was because it was itself an outlier. I rarely push a stroller around that much. It would be much easier to just push the stroller with one hand on those rare instances (fewer and farther between as the kids get bigger) when I do push them around a lot in one day.

  2. Personally, I think there was divine intervention: your walking points were deducted in deference to your margarita consumption. =) Of course, you could always carry your child…just saying.

  3. I find this so frustrating too. I’m a stay at home mom, so nearly every time I go for a walk, I’m pushing a double stroller. There are days that I’ve taken a 2mi walk and had a hard time reaching my step goal because it wasn’t counted at all. I find the same thing with a long grocery shopping trip. I might try to attach it to my ankle and see how it works.

  4. Kelly K…I have the same problem with pushing a cart through grocery/target ect… Have you tried the ankle way yet? I am searching info on that and came across this site.. I’m going to try the ankle this weekend..Let me know how it worked for you.

  5. I just got a flex yesterday. While I do t have the stroller problem, I’m ready to get this band off my wrist already. Just wondering if anyone has tried their ankle, pocket or even belt loop like a pedometer almost? Thanks!

  6. I noticed the same thing while I walked today. Yesterday I made my goal easily but remembered my husband pushed the stroller. Today I got just about half my steps.

  7. I ran into this problem yesterday, but then I just went and logged my mileage and time that I walked those miles, and viola, the steps and calories were added to my day.

  8. I mowed the lawn last night and had no trouble getting my steps. I was in the green for over 4000 steps and it almost reached the top of the chart. I wonder if it is because when you mow, your hands are vibrating as you push the mower.
    I also seem to be getting my steps when I push a cart at the supermarket. I wear a pedometer on my hip along with my fitbit, and then I compare them. The pedometer is off just a little, but I still get more steps from the fitbit. My fitbit is only about a month old. Maybe the fixed the problem. It even gives me steps on my recumbent bike.

  9. I push a jogging stroller all the time- here’s how I’ve adapted:
    - You can wrap the band around your shoelaces
    - You can put the fitbit in your pocket
    - Push one-handed (easier with a smaller kid and when walking vs running)
    I’ve tested both of these methods out by counting my steps and comparing it to what the app shows, and they’re all accurate.

Comments are closed.