Apple Watch is one of the most popular types of smartwatches worldwide.
These wearable devices are mainly popular for design, user experience, and accuracy.
But when it comes to a treadmill, can you rely on it to track your walking/running stats like distance, pace, calories burned, etc.?
Exactly how accurate is the Apple Watch on a treadmill?
In this blog post, I have answered this question based on real-world testing and experiments done by researchers and fitness enthusiasts.
Additionally, I have also provided some great tips to improve the accuracy of data when tracking your stats on your Apple Watch on a treadmill.
How Accurate is Apple Watch on Treadmill
In April 2019, researchers from Aberystwyth University did an experiment to test how accurate different smartwatch brands are at tracking distance on a treadmill.
Over 100 runners participated in the study who wore different brands of smartwatches while running on treadmills.
The researchers found most smartwatches were not very accurate at measuring the distance run on the treadmill.
While the Apple Watch series was the most accurate, it was still off by a few percent. Out of all Apple Watches, the Apple Watch Series 3 was the least accurate. It showed runners went 42.2 km when they really only went 36.7 km.
Overall, the experiment showed that for treadmill running, most smartwatches, even the Apple Watches, are not very good at accurately tracking distance.
How does Apple Watch Count Steps on a Treadmill?
When you’re on a treadmill, your Apple Watch uses its accelerometer sensor and wrist heart rate monitor to figure out your pace and distance.
Basically, it tracks your arm swings and converts that into how far you’re running or walking.
You can even make your Apple Watch more accurate at tracking your steps by calibrating it.
This allows your Apple Watch to learn about your specific movement patterns and provide much better readings for future treadmill sessions.
How Can I Make My Apple Watch More Accurate on Treadmill?
If you want to make your Apple Watch more accurate on a treadmill, you need to calibrate it properly. Calibrating your watch trains it and helps it be more precise.
After calibrating, when you walk or run at your normal pace while wearing the watch, it will use this data as a reference point for other runs and workouts.
For example, if you calibrate your Apple Watch by walking 1 kilometer in 20 minutes, your watch will use this data and other data such as your calories, heart rate, and other data as a reference point.
Later, if you walk 1 kilometer again, but faster, the watch compares to your calibrated pace. If your new pace doesn’t match, the watch knows the distance is inaccurate. It can then adjust the data to be more precise.
This means calibrating your Apple Watch teaches it about your normal walking and running. This helps it give more accurate measurements in future treadmill workouts.
How to Calibrate Your Apple Watch for Using on a Treadmill
Calibrating your Apple Watch for use on a treadmill is quite easy.
First of all, you need to turn on Motion Calibration & Distance on your Apple Watch by following the below instructions:
- Step 1 — Take out your iPhone and open the Settings app.
- Step 2 — Go to the Privacy option from the menu and tap on Location Services.
- Step 3 — Now, find the System Services option and tap on it.
- Step 4 — Finally, turn on Motion Calibration & Distance if it’s not turned on already.
Once the Motion Calibration & Distance setting is active, you need to follow a couple of steps outlined below to calibrate your Apple Watch for use on a treadmill.
- Step 1 — Wear your Apple Watch and get on a treadmill.
- Step 2 — Launch the Workout app and start the indoor walk or run depending on which exercise are you going to do on the treadmill. Before you start the workout, make sure to tap on the three horizontal dots and set a goal.
- Step 3 — Now, Tap on Start Workout and walk or run on the treadmill for a minimum of 20 minutes. This will help your Apple Watch to collect enough data to use it as a reference point for future workouts.
- Step 4 — Once your workout is complete, your Apple Watch will automatically be calibrated to track your treadmill walks or runs more accurately than before.
Pro Tip – When calibrating your Apple Watch for accuracy on a treadmill, make sure to move your hands as you normally do when walking or running.
Best Treadmill Apps for Apple Watch
1 — Nike Run Club
The Nike Run Club app from Nike is another very popular choice for tracking runs and walks. It can also work great for logging treadmill workouts. You can install the Nike Run Club app on your Apple Watch and use it to easily track your treadmill sessions.
Some other cool features of Nike Run Club:
- Tracks all your progress stats in detail
- Custom playlists from Apple Music to keep you motivated
- Run together virtually with friends by sharing your workouts
- Get personalized coaching tips
- Tag your favorite running shoes in the app
- Share your progress updates with others
Overall, the Nike Run Club app is a handy option for Apple Watch users who want an easy way to monitor treadmill runs and walks, plus get some extra coaching and music features.
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2 — Runkeeper
If you’re a runner, you’ve probably heard of the Runkeeper app from Asics. For folks just starting a running routine, Runkeeper is one of the top running apps in the App Store for Apple Watch.
Since Runkeeper is made to track running, it also does a great job logging treadmill runs and walks. While not quite as robust as the smartphone app, it can accurately monitor your treadmill sessions without needing your phone.
Here are some of the handy features in Runkeeper:
- Tracks your workout stats
- Celebrate when you complete a workout
- Includes a Goal Coach in Runkeeper Go
- Tracks nearly 30 different workout types
- Auto pause feature
- Tag friends on your workouts
- Adjust audio progress alerts
- Night mode
- Countdown timer
- Change the visibility of your activity map
In a nutshell, Runkeeper is a solid choice for Apple Watch users who want an easy way to track treadmill runs and walks with extra coaching tools.
3 — Aaptiv
The Aaptiv app is another great option for tracking your treadmill workouts. It offers over 2,500 trainer-led, music-powered workout routines to help keep you motivated.
Aaptiv also has lots of dedicated features specifically for treadmill runs and walks. Before starting a session, you can set your target peak speed, max incline, estimated distance, and preferred music style right in the app. This can make it a top choice for your treadmill training.
Some other cool things Aaptiv can do:
- Track treadmill workouts
- Track strength training
- Track yoga and stretching
- Track barre, elliptical, and indoor cycling
- Track outdoor running
So with Aaptiv, you get awesome trainer guidance, music integration, and customizable settings for dialing in your treadmill walks and runs.
In fact, this makes Aaptiv a great app for Apple Watch users who are looking for more personalized treadmill tracking.
4 — STUDIO
The STUDIO app might be last on this list but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in quality. It’s a great choice for treadmill workouts since it offers tons of guided workout videos for motivation and instruction. This makes it especially useful for beginners starting their fitness journey.
There’s an Apple Watch version of The Studio app you can use right on your wrist during workouts.
Some of the workout types covered by The Studio:
- Treadmill runs
So with the guided videos and Apple Watch app, The Studio is ideal for treadmill users who want more coaching and motivation.
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Apple Watch or Treadmill — Which One Gives Accurate Data for Workouts?
Your Apple Watch uses a bunch of sensors and your personal health info to figure out distance, calories burned, and other important stats about your body’s functions when you work out.
The treadmill calculates distance based on how many times the belt loops around. It uses a general math formula to estimate calories burned – not one tailored to your specific body type and health details.
So when it comes to accuracy between your Apple Watch and the treadmill display, the data from your Apple Watch is way more precise. This is because of the advanced sensors and customization Apple Watches give their users.
There’s no doubt the Apple Watch is one of the most accurate smartwatches around. But its accuracy drops when tracking workouts on a treadmill since GPS can’t be used indoors.
Still, the Apple Watch performs better than other smartwatches and treadmills for collecting workout data.
Apple Watch or Treadmill — Which is More Accurate for Calories Burned?
While neither gives 100% accurate calorie burn counts, your Apple Watch can be way more precise than the treadmill.
Apple Watches have lots of sensors that track different body functions and record the data.
If you enter all your health stats, body composition, and workout routine, the Apple Watch can closely monitor your heart rate, temperature, and movement. This is much more accurate than a generic treadmill.
Stationary bikes, ellipticals, and treadmills don’t have advanced sensors to measure your body’s vitals and stats.
Besides, most can’t be customized with your personal health info and medical history either. They just use a basic formula based on distance, time, height, weight, and age.
So, when counting calories burned, your personalized Apple Watch should be more accurate than the treadmill.
This is especially true if you calibrate your Apple Watch with the treadmill’s readings.
At the end of the day, getting the right stats from your workout is crucial. You want to make sure all those hours on the treadmill are accurately tracked so you can meet your goals.
The Apple Watch does a solid job monitoring your treadmill runs and walks, but takes a bit of setup to really maximize accuracy.
So, take a few minutes to calibrate your Apple Watch to match your stride length. Also, make sure to update your latest health and workout data so your watch can personalize your calorie burn and other readings.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to experiment with some third-party apps I listed in this post because they can give you more custom settings for your treadmill tracking.