How to Cheat on FitBit Convincingly. Spoiler: It Involves String.
Maybe you're curious about how the tech you wear every day works. Maybe you suspect your friend is cutting corners in your step competition and want to know how they're doing it. Or maybe you're the dang cheater yourself.
However you arrived on this page, I'm not here to judge. Or at least, I'm not here to judge you. I'm here for one thing only: to determine how to cheat on FitBit as effectively as possible, for the purpose of increasing the pool of human knowledge (AKA for science).
To do so, I used a FitBit Flex 2 to test four possible FitBit hacks, then rated two things: how useful they were for adding steps to my daily score and how believable the results were. (If you want to recreate my experiments, you can shop for your own FitBit and accessories here.)
Disclaimer: in no way am I endorsing employing these methods in your day-to-day life. The point of tracking your fitness is to improve your health, not to hit an arbitrary goal or win a competition by cheating.
Now that that's out of the way, let's get started.
Swing Your Arm
If you own a FitBit, you've probably tried this method before. In fact, there's a good chance the first thing you did when you initially slipped on your wristband was to test how different motions affected your step count. In other words, you probably already know this works. But is it a viable way to significantly boost your daily total?
Results: I found I was able to add about 100 steps per minute by swinging my arm at a comfortable pace while seated. However, I also couldn't keep it up forever. It got old after about five minutes, at which time I switched the wristband to my other arm and continued at the same pace. I'd say the max I'd want to keep up the whole thing would be 15 minutes or so, maybe a little longer if I were particularly motivated and/or distracted.
Effectiveness: 7/10. This method loses points for being difficult to sustain for long periods, but the beauty of it is you don't need to. In fact you're probably better off sneaking in a couple hundred steps here and there throughout your day.
Plausibility: 8/10. Your friends might question why you add so many steps during prime TV-watching hours, but the rate of increase is almost perfectly in line with someone walking at a normal pace. (The rule of thumb is 2,000 steps = 1 mile; you could add that many steps in about 20 minutes of arm swinging, which is right around the typical pace for walking a mile.)
Verdict: This is a reliable technique to keep in your repertoire. However, in terms of hassle it's only slightly better than just going for a walk. It feels like the "before" part of an infomercial: there's got to be a better way!
Tape It to a Ceiling or Box Fan
An ideal cheating method would operate entirely independently, with no oversight or effort required from you. That's why this technique sounded so promising. If it worked, you could flip a switch and start racking up steps without a second thought on your part.
To test it out, I taped the little tracker piece (without the wristband) onto the blades of both a ceiling fan and a box fan. (The box fan was more work since I had to remove the front screen part with a screwdriver.)
Results: Disappointing. In both instances, when I first started the fan, I watched as the steps quickly began to mount, and for a few glorious moments I thought I'd outsmarted my FitBit for good. But I had underestimated my opponent. After about 30 seconds, the step counter froze, as if the tracker had adapted to its steady motion and was now failing to register it. Maybe it was my guilty conscience, but it felt as if my FitBit had gotten wise to what I was trying to pull. In both the ceiling- and box-fan tests, I added only about 40 steps before the effect wore off.
Effectiveness: 1/10. I put more effort into executing this than I saved.
Plausibility: A burst of a few dozen steps and then a long stretch of nothing? That's all too plausible. 10/10.
Verdict: Skip it. It's possible that the right setup could make this work, but fine-tuning the arrangement felt like too much trouble.
Spin It on a Power Drill
After the ceiling fan test, I was not feeling optimistic about this idea. It seemed clear that back-and-forth motion, not rotation, was key to tricking the tech. But as a man of science, I didn't want to rule anything out based on my assumptions alone. I taped the whole FitBit, wristband and all, to the end of a drill, then lightly held the trigger switch to cause it to rotate at moderate speed.
Results: This flat-out didn't work. I may have recorded a few incidental steps as I performed the setup, but other than that, this gained me about as much as I'd have gotten by taking a nap.
Effectiveness: 0/10. People who have done this are plainly smarter than me.
Plausibility: 10/10, but only by default, because it didn't add any steps.
Verdict: Nah man.
Swing It on a String
This was the last idea I tried, and the only one I hadn't seen mentioned online before while researching how to cheat on FitBit. That's a shame, because it's got a lot going for it, starting with a simple setup: just tie the tracker to a string, and use your wrist to swing it back and forth with minimal effort. (Taping it to a yo-yo would also work nicely. I attached mine to a headphone cord, and that did the trick just fine.) The idea is to simulate the to-and-fro motion that makes swinging your arm so effective, but in a way that's easier to keep up for long periods.
Results: At a comfortable pace, I was able to add about 120 steps per minute, so a bit more than swinging my arm alone. It was also far, far easier to keep up.
Effectiveness: 9/10. By resting my elbow on my knee, I could easily maintain the swinging motion of my wrist for an hour or more. In fact it was almost relaxing, like a fidget spinner of dishonesty.
Plausibility: 8/10. The pace perfectly matched that of a brisk walk. The only risk is overdoing it: you may raise suspicions if you continue it mindlessly at the same rate for hours.
Verdict: The combination of simplicity and reliability make this method the clear winner. The only potential improvement would be to automate the motion of the string somehow, perhaps by building a simple robot that could begin swinging it at the flip of a switch. But if you or I were that ambitious, "how to cheat FitBit" articles wouldn't need to exist in the first place.
Sean is a senior editor and a gradually improving cook. He once asked a man at an airport if he was Kevin Sorbo, and the man said no, but it was totally Kevin Sorbo.