Hacks for When You Forget to Wear Your Pedometer

New Fitbit Force, sport fitness tracker
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There are times when your pedometer step count doesn't accurately reflect the number you of steps you've taken throughout the day. Maybe you left your pedometer at home, the battery is dead, or you've been pushing a stroller and your device didn't log any movements because your arms were steady.

If you love the habit and accountability that fitness trackers offer, you may be frustrated that you don't have a record of your steps. But there are ways to make up for lost miles, even while sitting down.

How to Add Steps to a Fitness Tracker

When you know you've put in the effort, you can tap into different methods—some practical, some surprising—to retroactively add those steps that were not recorded. Keep in mind that fitness trackers like Fitbit claim to have a multi-faceted way of collecting data to determine steps including your duration, intensity, and movement pattern. While these are recommended fixes, results can vary and you may need to experiment.

Use Your Phone

You can use your smartphone to access step count data. In some situations, your tracker app can use smartphone data to bolster step counts recorded by the tracker.

For example, In the Fitbit app, you can add Fitbit MobileTrack as a device. This will allow the app to use your phone's built-in accelerometer chip and display its data. Go to Account, Set Up Device, and select MobileTrack. Other brands of fitness trackers may have a similar feature.

Log Steps as Exercise

Fitbit and some other trackers let you manually log exercise that wasn't recorded. You can add your "lost" steps as a workout. This tactic may or may not add to your step count total. It does with Fitbit for some purposes but won't transfer to some third-party applications where you may be engaged in competitions or earning rewards. You may want to estimate the missing steps by knowing your steps per mile.

Try Another Activity

A few more miles will likely benefit you unless you just finished a long-distance training walk or an actual marathon. If you're tired of walking, you can turn on your tracker, play music, and dance. Arm and hip motion can rack up steps quickly. Even simply tapping your feet can yield results.

Cycling is another great option because it works similar muscles without any impact. Not all pedometers and fitness bands count cycling motion as steps, so try positioning the pedometer on your sock cuff if you don't get steps with it on your shoe.

Move Your Arms

Many fitness bands can be tricked into recording lots of steps if you use vigorous arm motion. Even knitting or wrapping a string around your pedometer and swinging it back and forth have reportedly worked. These methods can be helpful if your legs are sore from your walk.

Get Help From Friends and Family

You may be tired, but maybe somebody else is ready to get moving. Attach your pedometer to your little one as he or she goes to soccer or basketball practice. Offer a reward for logging the most steps while jumping rope, shooting hoops, playing Xbox, Just Dance, Beat Saber (virtual reality game), or making TikTok dances. These are all great things for your kids to be doing for their own physical activity.

You can also let older friends and family offer assistance. Hand your tracker over to a friend or loved one who is ready to walk, run, or get on the treadmill. They'll get some exercise and you'll get the steps.

Play With Your Dog

Attach your pedometer to your dog's collar and play catch. It won't wear you out if you have your dog return the ball to you with each throw. Your device may not count your pup's steps the same as human, but it might get you closer to your lost step number.

Use a Motorized Device

What gadgets or appliances do you have that might simulate a walking motion so you don't have to? Ceiling fans, metronomes, and power drills have all been reportedly used to increase the number of steps, though some devices offer mixed results.

One person even reported accidentally dropping hers in the dryer, which resulted in an uptick of steps. (If you try this, make sure to wrap your tracker with padding in a zippered pouch or pocket and set the dryer to the no-heat air-dry setting.)

A Word From Verywell

It's great to be motivated by your fitness tracker and make your activity goal each day, but it does bring the risk of being demotivated when it doesn't record all of your efforts. If you aren't able to make your goal for the day, it's important to get past that disappointment and continue to be active each day.

Keep in mind that some studies have shown the inaccuracies in these monitors. Ultimately, whether or not you use your fitness tracker, the goal is to move more, sit less, and achieve the minimum recommended amount of exercise each day.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  4. Takacs J, Pollock CL, Guenther JR, Bahar M, Napier C, Hunt MA. Validation of the Fitbit One activity monitor device during treadmill walking. J Sci Med Sport. 2014;17(5):496-500.  doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2013.10.241

Additional Reading

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.