Which Pedometers Will Work Underwater?

woman swimming checking fitness watch

Oleg Breslavtsev / Getty Images

Do you want to track your steps in the pool as you do water walking or water aerobics? Most pedometers and fitness bands are water-resistant, but that only protects while walking in the rain or when you wear them into the shower. "Waterproof" and "rated for swimming" are much higher standards. A trip through the washing machine is bad news for most pedometers, as many of us have discovered.

Waterproof Fitness Trackers

As fitness bands evolve, a few are waterproof and rated for use when swimming or in the pool.

Fitbit Flex 2: This is the first waterproof Fitbit, rated to 50 meters. You can wear it in the pool, and it will count steps for water walking. It can automatically detect a swimming workout, although you must first enable this option as it is turned off by default. You turn it on in the app under Account, Goals, Exercise, Swimming, Auto-recognize. You enter the pool length into the app to track pace and distance before starting a swim (it becomes the default). It doesn't count steps during a swim workout when you track it this way. Buy from Amazon.com

Fitbit Charge 4: The Fitbit Charge 4 has GPS and swim tracking. Of course, this means it is swim-proof and water-resistant to 50 meters. It measures your heart rate tracks active minutes, workout time, and intensity. Steps, sleep, and the Fitbit Charge also gathers multiple other data points, and its battery can last up to 7 days. Buy from Amazon.com

Polar: The Polar Loop and Polar A300 are waterproof and can be worn swimming. Both will measure the intensity of your activity while swimming, as well as record steps. The Loop detects the form of your exercise and aims to give you full credit for the effort you are putting into your workout. Remember that you probably aren't logging steps when swimming, but you are burning calories (lots of them!)

Garmin: The Garmin vivofit and Garmin vivosmart series activity bands are waterproof to 5 ATM, which is good enough for surface swimming. They can be paired with an ANT+ chest strap heart rate monitor to record your exertion while you are in the water. Buy Garmin vivofit from Amazon.

Apple Watch Series 6: This version of the Apple Watch is water-resistant to 50 meters, and it tracks swim workouts with its Workout feature. You can set the length of the pool, and it will also count laps. During your swim, it will show workout duration, active calories burned, laps, and distance, and it can display heart rate. Buy from Amazon.com

If you intend to use any of these for diving, snorkeling, or scuba diving, be sure to check the depth rating. Go too deep, and even a "waterproof" device won't take the pressure.

Will a Pedometer Accurately Count Pool Walking?

Would a simple pedometer really count water walking steps? The Misfit Shine and the Polar Loop use complex motion-sensing algorithms to detect what type of activity you are doing and give you activity credit. But an unsophisticated pedometer simply tracks up-and-down motion.

The motion of water walking is different from land walking, and you might not get the same movement that would record a step on a pedometer that tracks motion in only one or two axes. On land, you jiggle up and down with each step, which the pedometer detects and records a step. Your movement in the water might not be the same.

To test the accuracy of a waterproof pedometer for step counting, try counting your steps manually while you walk in the pool. See how closely it matches the pedometer after 100, 200, and 300 steps.

Extra Credit for Water Walking

When it comes to energy expenditure, you really should count your pool steps as 120 - 150 steps per minute, a little more than you would be logging if you walked 3 miles per hour. Walking in the pool takes more energy than walking on land.

Waterproofing a Non-Waterproof Pedometer

Encase a pedometer in a plastic baggie. Clip it to a headband. Now go water walking. Count your steps across the pool. Unclip your pedometer and see how many it has recorded. If it is reasonably accurate, you may want to make your method of using a pedometer for pool walking steps.

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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.