How does Apple Health measure steps?

In this brief guide we are going to answer the question “How does Apple Health measure steps?” and provide you with more tips on how to make the most out of the Apple Health application.

How does Apple Health measure steps?

Apple Health records four main types of functions: activity, mindfulness, sleep and nutrition.

Apple Health makes use of the iPhone’s accelerometer to measure steps and distance travelled. As long as you keep your iPhone with you, you do not need a separate tracker to measure your step count and distance. 

A healthy step count

Most health apps suggest that 10,000 steps a day are a good target to keep for a healthy lifestyle. This number is not based on scientific research but is deemed a good number to make people more goal-oriented towards a healthy lifestyle. Nowadays almost all smartphones come with built-in pedometers that track your daily step count.

How to view your step count on your iPhone

To view your step count

  1. Open your iPhone’s Health app.
  2. At the bottom of the screen, tap on Browse
  3. Under Health Categories, tap to select Activity.
  4. Tap “Steps.”

You will see data recorded as steps even if it’s the first time you are viewing Apple Health. Data is automatically gathered on step activity whenever you are carrying your phone.

The app also automatically graphs your average steps over time and highlights any trends or changes. You can even view average steps for the past week, month or year by tapping on W, M and Y tabs above the graph. 

Remember that steps are only recorded when you carry your phone with you.

How does Apple Health measure distance?

Apple uses the basic formula to calculate the distance measured

Steps x Stride Length = Distance Traveled

The stride length is estimated using your general profile information such as height and gender. This does, however, make the distance measured a little less accurate because it is based on an estimated stride length.

What does Apple use to track steps?

The Apple iPhone uses a 3- axis accelerometer and algorithms to translate step movements into numerical step count information.

The accelerometer is a sensor that measures dynamic acceleration. The accelerometer in the phone is a Micro Electro Mechanical System (MEMS) device. MEMS devices are very small electromechanical devices that contribute to translating mechanical movements into electrical signals. 

An accelerometer is essentially a MEMS device that consists of a fixed element and an elastic element. The elastic element is suspended and is sensitive to external movements, which cause the suspended element to make contact with the fixed element, hence, completing a circuit. 

The rhythmic completion of the circuit and algorithms working to identify different movements provide information on step count. 

How accurate is the step count?

As stated above the rhythmic movement of hands, register as step count. Similar actions such as riding a  slow vehicle down a bumpy road can also register as steps. 

Algorithms at work classify which values to take as step count and which movements are to be ignored. The algorithm is designed to look for intensity and motion patterns

that are most indicative of people walking and running. 

When working at a desk, cooking, or performing other activities with arm movements, the movement of the wrist can also add a few steps. However, when viewed as a daily step count the steps counted mistakenly would be far less which will still give an accurate reading of step count within 90-100%.

 It is easily arguable that even if the tracker is inaccurate, it still logs daily progress. The inaccuracy would be by the same number of points, each day. Hence, if you sit around most days, the app would clearly show a day in which you gathered the courage to go for a walk.

Can Apple Health tell how many floors you climbed?

Apple has an added motion tracking in its iPhone, making it capable of tracking flights of stairs climbed. It uses an inbuilt barometer, which senses pressure, to determine the height. It works by analyzing relative air pressure with an increase in height. The accuracy may not be on point because it generally works by assuming 10 feet of height to be one floor. The numbers may vary in the real world.

All of this information appears on the iPhone’s Health app and tracks how often you climb stairs. It can even differentiate between the time you spend walking as compared to the time you spend running.

What’s more?

The Apple Watch is a new gadget introduced by Apple that comes packed with many features to promote a healthier lifestyle. The Apple Watch has its own step counter and heart rate monitor. The newest models come with the ability to measure blood oxygen levels as well. The Apple Watch can act as a health monitor which logs in your heart rate activity, step count, daily exercise and sleep activity as well. This combined with the Apple Health app can give you all the health stats you need in one place. It is a great accessory to your iPhone, especially for fitness enthusiasts.


In this brief guide, we have answered the question “How does Apple Health measure steps?” and provided you with more tips on how to make the most out of the Apple Health application.


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