Both pool running (aka "aqua jogging") and pool walking are forms of the same land-based exercises, but performed in a pool. The purpose? A great workout with much lower impact on the leg joints, spine, and rest of body. People whose body screams “no!” when they try to go for a jog may find salvation in pool running or pool walking — the exercise is a favorite among people recovering from injuries to the lower body joints, or with past injuries that would be exacerbated by further joint/skeletal impact.
Seeking Answers in a Swimsuit
I ran in place in the shallow end, which came to a few inches above my belly button. When running, my arms varied between grazing the water and splashing through the water as I moved them back and forth while running. I went barefoot (no water shoes).
I counted out 1000 steps manually (marking on a piece of paper each time I hit 200 or 300 so that I wouldn't lose place). It's still possible that my count was off by about 10 steps, due to human error. So I'm going to say I ran 1000 +/-10 steps in the waist-deep water, which took me about 10 minutes. At the end of the test, I noted down the counts of each fitness tracker.
I then repeated the test for pool walking. Pool walking, or just walking in any body of water, is usually not done in place the way pool running is. So this time I walked back and forth in the 3.5 foot shallow end until I reached 100 steps and then noted down the count from each fitness tracker. Since 100 is not very many steps, and my walking was't super uniform (I had to turn around every 10 steps or so since it's a narrow pool), I repeated the exercise to get additional data.
The Results: Fitness trackers step counts for pool running and pool walking
Pool Running Results (Count of Steps)
Human Count: 1000 +/- 10
FitBit Flex: 987
Basis Band: 986
Misfit Shine: 978
Pool Walking Results, Trial 1 (Count of Steps)
Human Count: 100
FitBit Flex: None
Basis Band: None
Misfit Shine: 90
Pool Walking Results, Trial 2 (Count of Steps)
Human Count: 100
FitBit Flex: 12
Basis Band: None
Misfit Shine: 14
I also incorporated feedback on two additional trackers from the readers who had reached out to me with the original questions.
Answers: Fitness Trackers for Pool Running
- Amiigo - Based on a reply from the company, this waterproof fitness tracker that includes a wristband and foot chip should be capable of accurately tracking your steps in a pool, whether they're running steps or walking steps.
- Spark Activity Tracker - Based on feedback from one of my readers, this device fails to accurately capture steps during pool running (and, presumably, the much harder-to-detect pool walking)
- FitBit Flex - Did an accurate job of counting steps while pool running, did a poor job of counting steps while pool walking.
- Basis Band - Did an accurate job of counting steps while pool running, did a poor job of counting steps while pool walking.
- Misfit Shine - Did an accurate job of counting steps while pool running, did a poor job of counting steps while pool walking.
In summary, it looks to me like they all would do okay for the task of pool running (with the exception of the Spark Activity Tracker). For pool walking, it looks like there isn't enough impact while walking to register really well on any of the devices I tested, though the Amiigo might be worth looking into. I ordered one and should be getting my hands on it soon…
The pool running numbers seem to be within the normal error you'd find while walking or running on land. My guess is that if I went out and did another 1000 running steps in the pool, the trackers would all do about as well as they did in my first test, but would probably change places a bit with regard to which estimated the highest and which estimated the lowest, since the current spread is only 9 steps. Sadly, I forgot to test my Jawbone UP during this activity tracker comparison. If you’re dying to know how that does, let me know, and I’ll try to remember it the next time I hit the pool.
If you've had experience (good or bad) with using a fitness tracker while pool running/aqua jogging or pool walking, please let me know via the contact form! If reader responses converge on something consistent, I'll update this post with new information.
Hope this helps some of you pool runners (and walkers) out there!