In the communities, I keep seeing questions about if the Microsoft Band is as accurate as a treadmill for distance and calories. Since much of the U.S. is experiencing winter weather, folks are stuck utilizing the treadmill more and, some, for the first time are finding that there seems to be a discrepancy between resulting stats.
I wrote about this early last year, but since we have many new Band owners (thanks to holiday gifts), I thought I should expound on my earlier coverage and give some additional insight into the myth of treadmill accuracy.
Do you know that a treadmill is not an accurate piece of fitness equipment?
Like any fitness tool (wearable or otherwise), a treadmill is just another tool to allow you to set a personal baseline and then work toward and monitor improvements. Like many other tools, a treadmill does not understand things like foot strike, foot pace, body composition, skeletal frame, and stride length. For runners (and even walkers), there are a myriad of things that can slow you down without you realizing it. Just tensing your shoulders during a hard run can have a bigger impact on pace than you might realize. Shoulder tensing tends to produce faster step cadence but shorter strides. But, on the opposite side, there are also a myriad of things that actually make you faster than what the treadmill tells you.
You might run with a much faster foot pace that outside would net you 5 miles in a quarter of the time the treadmill promotes. The treadmill, essentially, is monitoring itself, not you – and sometimes not very well. I travel quite a bit and am sometimes stuck in the hotel gym to run due to weather and a lack of knowledge of the local area. So, I have the opportunity to run on different manufacturers’ treadmills and I can tell you firsthand that they are all fine-tuned differently. Additionally, every treadmill belt rotates at different speeds. So, despite whatever speed you input on the treadmill’s panel, you’re probably not hitting the real speed. When you’re done, you essentially ran 5 treadmill miles, but based on your foot pace or stride length, outside you would have covered more ground in the same amount of time.
Microsoft, with the Band, has done a good job attempting to solve this treadmill problem (which I’m sure many of you didn’t know existed). Using a number of monitored stats coupled with the built-in GPS the Band tries to learn you. The Microsoft Band, through GPS monitoring (outside activity) can actually be a lot closer to accurate than a treadmill, though. When you run outside using the built-in GPS, over time the Band learns your pace and effort. Now, the Microsoft Band is not 100% accurate, either, but it can be a lot closer to accurate than a treadmill.
So, when you tell a friend that you did 5 treadmill miles, that’s not necessarily a true 5 miles. It’s 5 miles based on linear mechanics built into your brand and model of treadmill.
If you’re doing the work with the Microsoft Band, and teaching the wearable through outside GPS activity, the Band will actually become a lot more accurate than the treadmill display. That’s not to say that a treadmill is not a worthy piece of exercise equipment to invest in and you should stop using it completely. Just be mindful that a treadmill is just another tool to set a baseline and monitor improvements and its an important tool to help keep you on track. Because I do opt to run outside and use the Band’s GPS and I’m solidly in-touch with my abilities from years of running to know what 5 miles feels like at my personal pace, I trust the Band’s output over the treadmill’s and go by that.
If you’ve not done the work outside yet with the GPS (which might be many of you considering you received one over the winter holidays), I’d stick with the treadmill output for now. Once warmer weather rolls around this Spring, head outside and start teaching your Microsoft Band about you. You’ll be much happier with the results. It takes at least 3 GPS monitored runs for Band to have enough data to start tailoring its output to you.
And, lastly, here’s one additional tidbit: The Microsoft Band never stops learning you. We all go through running ruts, or our running style can change due to aches, pains, injury, illness, getting older, or even new shoes. Keep up the GPS tracking. You might go through periods (like this winter) where the treadmill is your only option. But, don’t let that become a rut, too, because the Band will become less accurate over time unless it’s supplied with your true running ability from GPS data.