Garmin: Floor Counts

The Garmin Vivosmart HR+ (VS HR+) is the perfect fitness watch because it measures GPS, Heart Rate, steps, Intensity Minutes, floors, and pace. The purpose of this post is to explain workarounds for things that the Vivosmart HR+ does less than perfectly.

Avoiding miscounts of floors climbed

  • Problem: The Garmin barometer may not read your floor level correctly. This is particularly true at the moment you climb or descend another floor.
  • Solution: Pause between floors to allow Garmin to catch up. Here is how to count floors:
  • Put your cell phone in Bluetooth mode with the phone’s screensaver set for at least 10 minutes. Make sure the phone and Garmin are paired. Make sure that your settings are such that both your watch and phone show “floors.”
  • Go to the lowest floor. Look at Garmin Connect to see when it blinks or makes any sign that it is aware that floors were just descended. If Garmin Connect does nothing, stay on the lowest floor for 15 seconds. The 15 seconds is adequate for the VS HR+ to take another barometric reading.
  • Put a water bottle and towel on a nearby table. Take off your watch and use the towel and a dab of water to lightly clean and polish the back of your watch. Blow on the barometer’s air hole to clear out any blockage. Replace the watch on our wrist. Pick up the phone.
  • Climb to the top floor while swinging your arms. Hold your phone with your non-Garmin arm. At the top floor, look to see when Bluetooth updates the number of up floors on your cell phone and watch. This should be only a few seconds. Do not descend until Garmin updates your floors. Whenever the VS HR+ makes no change or an undercount in floors, stay on the current floor for 15 seconds.
  • Descend to the bottom floor while swinging your arms. At the bottom floor, look to see when Bluetooth updates the number of down floors on your devices. This should be only a few seconds. Do not climb until Garmin updates your floors. Whenever the VS HR+ makes no change or an undercount in floors, stay on the current floor for 15 seconds. 
  • Indoors and Outdoors: A Garmin “floor” is an elevation change of 10′. If you are outdoors walking or running on hills, the change of elevation will be gradual, and the VS HR+ will measure the change accurately. If you are indoors racing up steps, your change of elevation may be too swift for the VS HR+. This is why you should stay on the top or lowest floor for at least 15 seconds so that the VS HR+ has time to notice your change in altitude. Even with time to adjust, your credit for climbing 2 floors might range from 0 to 4. That is, you might average getting 2 floors of credit for every 20′ of indoor elevation change, but in practice, you won’t get exactly 1 floor for exactly 10′. If you climb 100′ or 200′ of stairs per day, you are likely to average the correct 10 floors or 20 floors of credit.
  • Repeat the above procedure until reaching your daily floor goal. Climbs of approximately 20 floors per day will rank you somewhere above the 90% bracket of floor climbers. You can click on Garmin Connect, Insights, Steps to see your exact ranking.
  • Fake Floors: If you are an inefficient treadmill runner, you will accumulate floors. The VS HR+ will interpret the time that you are airborne as climbing/descending time. With each stride, you might get a fraction of an inch for floors. With a long run, you might get a floor or more. The obvious cure for such fake floors is to run more efficiently, minimizing your vertical distance in favor of improving your strides per minute to about 180 SPM. You know, run softly, run quietly.
  • Test Results: We ascended and descended the two floors in a townhouse. One floor is 9′ while the other is 10.’ We made 11 roundtrips, pausing at the bottom and top landings. Garmin gave us credit for 20 floors. On most ascents, Garmin updated our floor count within 2 seconds of reaching the top floor. Doing the math (11×19’=20.9), the VS HR+ is exactly right in its floor total count. During the individual roundtrips, Garmin was sometimes off by as much as two floors.
  • Conclusion: Never change floors before determining that Garmin Connect knows your current floor. The verification might take 5-15 seconds. Your floors are verified whenever Garmin Connect updates the number of 10′-elevations that you have climbed or descended. Your total floor count after several floors will be accurate.

Tags: Garmin; Vivosmart; HR+; lost data; floors; inaccurate floor count; heart rate monitor; GPS; Bluetooth; recording an exercise.