Apple Watch counting too many flights climbed of stairs? Try these tips!

Stairs climbed counted on Apple Watch wrong and inaccurate

Is your Apple watch counting way too many steps or flight climbed? If so, you are not alone. Several of our readers tell us that their Apple Watches report inaccurate data, especially on the number of flights and stairs climbed–sometimes reporting 10 times what a person actually did!

The good news is that we have some tips that stop this problem for most people.

In a hurry? in a hurry graphic

If time is short and you don’t need a thorough step-by-step, follow these quick instructions to get your Apple Watch counting your flights climbed correctly!

  1. Check your data sources for Flights Climbed in the Health app.
  2. Turn on your Apple Watch’s water lock feature and then turn it off, just in case there is trapped water causing the issue.
  3. Toggle on (or off and on) motion calibration and distance settings in your paired iPhone’s location services settings.
  4. Fully charge your Apple Watch.
  5. Thoroughly clean your watch and its sensors so there isn’t any grease or trapped dirt blocking it.
  6. Reset your watch’s fitness calibration data in the Watch app.
  7. Unpair and re-pair your watch to the Watch app.

Related reading

Review the Health app’s data sources for flights

When you have multiple data sources (like an Apple Watch and a third-party app) contributing to your flights climbed, you might have data priority out of order.

That’s because any new apps or devices that you add automatically are automatically prioritized over your iPhone.

  1. Open the Health app > Browse > Activity.
  2. Locate and tap the subcategory Flights Climbed. Flights climbed in Apple Health app activity
  3. Scroll down to the bottom and select Data Sources & Access. Only sources that contribute to your flight count appear. Data sources for Apple Health app for Flights Climbed in Activity
  4. Review the list of devices and apps under Data Sources. Apple lists all devices and apps by priority, with the top device/app having top priority. Apple Health app list of data sources and devices for flights climbed
  5. To change the order or make an app inactive, tap the Edit button at the top. Apple Health app edit list of data sources and devices for flights climbed
    1. To move a device or app up or down the list, tap the change order icon (three horizontal lines) and drag it up or down the list.
    2. To make an app inactive so its data isn’t collected, tap the checkmark to the left of the app’s name. You cannot make an Apple Watch or iPhone inactive.
    3. Once you made all your changes, tap Done at the top to save them.

Learn more about device priority in this article: How do I set device priority for calculating steps and other activity on iPhone and Apple Watch?

Turn the Water Lock on and off

There may be water or other liquid trapped in your watch and causing problems! So let’s use the water lock feature to expel anything that’s there.

  1. Open your watch’s control center and tap the water drop icon to turn on its water lock. water lock on Apple Watch in control center
  2. When water engages, you see that water drop symbol at the top of your watch’s screen. apple watch water lock on
  3. Press and hold the watch’s Digital Crown to turn off its water lock. You’ll hear a series of beeps play–these force any remaining water out through your watch’s speakers. Turn off water lock in watchOS 9
    1. For older watchOS versions, rotate the Digital Crown instead of pressing it.
  4. Once complete, your watch should say it’s Unlocked!

    Apple Watch unlocked water lock
    Wait for your watch to show it’s unlocked before releasing the Digital Crown

Turn on Motion Calibration & Distance for your Apple Watch

  1. On your paired iPhone, go to Settings.
  2. Choose Privacy & Security > Location Services.
  3. Scroll down to System Services.iPhone system services under privacy and location services
  4. Toggle on Motion Calibration & Distance.iPhone system services for motion calibration and distance settings in location services
    1. If it’s already on, toggle it off, wait 20 seconds, and toggle it back on.

Charge your Apple Watch’s battery

If your battery is low on charge, getting accurate fitness metrics is often impacted. So, before you start your day, make sure your watch battery is at 100%.

Alternatively, try discharging your Apple Watch and then charging it overnight (or for 12+ hours continuously)

Some readers discovered that if they let their Apple Watch battery completely discharge until it went into power reserve mode (shows time only) and only then charged it fully (usually overnight) the next day, their Apple Watch recorded steps and flights of stairs accurately.

Clean your Apple Watch

Most Apple Watches (Series 3 and above) include a barometric sensor that helps calculate elevation and determine approximate altitude.

That barometric sensor records any change in your elevation.

Sometimes, it counts things as stairs and flights climbed, even if you actually did not climb any but changed your elevation while moving during activity.

For example, it won’t count elevation changes in an elevator (because you aren’t engaged in active motion.)

But it will count elevation changes when going up and down a hill. And if a weather event like a hurricane passes through your town, you’ll likely see some interesting results in your flights of stairs climbed due to the sudden atmospheric and barometric pressure changes!

What’s important here is that your Apple Watch’s barometric sensor uses the watch’s air and speaker vents as a barometric vents to equalize the watch’s internal pressure.

Sometimes, lint, dirt, and other debris get trapped in these vents, preventing the barometric sensor from operating correctly.

So a good, old-fashioned cleaning often saves the day!

How to clean your Apple Watch so it counts stairs and steps accurately Apple Watch clean screen

  1. Remove any bands that could be damaged by water (like fabric and leather bands.)
  2. Swipe up Control Center and tap the Water Lock button.
    1. You want the water lock active for the entire cleaning process.
  3. Use a dry microfiber or lint-free cloth and wipe your Apple Watch–make sure you cover all sides, the buttons, digital crown, and focus on those vents to ensure nothing is trapped in there.
  4. Lightly dampen the cloth with fresh water, use a 70% isopropyl alcohol wipe, an electronics wipe, or Clorox disinfecting wipe, and clean your watch again.
    1. Alternatively, hold your Apple Watch under lightly running, warm freshwater for 10 to 15 seconds.
    2. Never use bleach, soaps, detergents, or other cleaning products to clean your watch.
  5. After cleaning, take another dry cloth and wipe the watch to pick up any remaining moisture.
  6. Turn off Water Lock and eject water by pressing or turning the Digital Crown on the side of your Apple Watch until the display says Unlocked.
    1. You hear a set of tones as your watch expels any remaining water. apple watch unlocked from water lock
  7. Let your watch air dry in a shaded location or near a fan. Make sure the watch (and band, if applicable) is 100% dry before placing it back on.

Reset your Fitness Calibration data

If nothing’s worked thus far, try resetting your watch’s fitness calibration data. We keep this option as our last because this action deletes all of your calibration data and history. It’s like starting fresh. 

But if your watch isn’t accurately capturing your activity data, then it is our recommendation to reset your watch’s calibration.

  1. On your paired iPhone, open the Watch app.
  2. Select Privacy.
  3. Scroll down and tap Reset Fitness Calibration Data and confirm.reset fitness calibration data on Apple Watch
  4. If possible, immediately go for a walk, hike, or run to recalibrate your watch.

Unpair and re-pair your Apple Watch

If all else fails, try unpairing and re-pairing your Apple Watch with your iPhone. When you unpair, Apple automatically creates a backup for you to restore to when you re-pair.

  1. Place your Apple Watch on its charger and put it next to your iPhone.
  2. Open the Watch app on your iPhone.
  3. Go to the My Watch tab and tap All Watches.
  4. Tap the “i” info button next to the watch that you want to unpair. apple watch info i button
  5. Tap Unpair Apple Watch. apple watch unpair from iPhone
  6. Follow the instructions on-screen to unpair. 
  7. Once unpaired, pair your watch again, follow the screen’s instructions, and when asked, choose to Restore from Backup. Apple Watch set up as new or restore from backup

If you continue to have issues, run through these steps again, but choose to Set Up as New Apple Watch

For more detailed instructions on unpairing your Apple Watch, see this article: Unpair Apple Watch with or without your iPhone or Watch

When you set it up as new, it sets it up as if it just came from the factory. So none of the apps, personalizations, etc., carry over. You will need to set up and install those again.

Wrap up

If your Apple watch counts too many steps or flight climbed, we hope one of these tips worked for you.

And if not, let us know. Got a better tip for this problem? Let us know that, too and pay it forward.

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A. Beth Whittenberger
I started my love affair with computers way back in elementary school with the Apple II. Since then, I've worked with technology in my career as a media educator and videomaker. I have an MFA in media making from Temple University, where I also taught undergrads as an adjunct faculty member. Additionally, I was a writer, content producer, and editor on the popular tech blog AppleToolBox. So I know a thing or two about teaching others and creating how-to guides! After a cancer diagnosis, I turned to mobile technology like my Apple Watch to help me monitor my health throughout my chemotherapy treatment and later, to regain my wellness once in remission. I love sharing how to understand and use mobile tech, like smartwatches and phones, as a tool for empowerment to live our best and healthiest lives! Connect with me on LinkedIn!


  1. So…. The fact that so many folks with series 4 model leads me to believe that this happened with a software update- just like the issue I had with the ekg…that Apple denied… and is now mysteriously fixed …the question I have is will I upgrade my watch before they fix the software? Btw I did all those above steps and I still have multiple stairs climbed while sleeping –

  2. I did all of what you suggested. The problem is not my watch counting too many stairs but my Health app. I delete all the stairs climbed, but even if I take a few steps and I look at the app again, it added another 2 or 3 floors climbed.

    This messes with my exercise minutes as it shows way too many whilst I did not even exercise.

    I want to remove flights from my Health app, but even after seeking on Google the whole day, it still adds the floors. This has never happened before. I have an iPhone 11 Pro and have just updated it to the latest software version.

    • Hi Heleen,

      I suspect that the Health app is capturing information from other sources, so let’s check that.

        Open the Health app and tap the Browse tab.
        Tap Activity.
        Choose Flights Climbed.
        Tap Data Sources & Access.
        Review the data sources list.
        If you see a source that you don’t want to send information to the Health app, tap on the Edit button at the top.
        Deselect that source by unchecking it. It then shows as inactive. Tap Done at the top to save your changes.
  3. I went away on a trip to St Thomas and left my phone on the charger at home. 8 days later when I returned, this flight of stairs overcount started. I mean, climb the stair 8 times and it shows 86. I tried all of these suggestions but nothing works. Really frustrating. This is an Apple Watch Series 4 running 8.5.1.

  4. My series 1 Apple Watch lasted 3 years before it would not take updates.

    When I passed it on it still had 90% battery health. My Series 5, which I have paired down to a minimum of apps and no cellular is down to 86 % after 16 months.

    My flights climbed is wonky as can be. I have to recharge the watch by 6:00 each evening and I manor doing anything different than I did when I first got it and I still had 30%-40% by the end of the day.

    I just unpaired and repaired. Hope this works

  5. My series 3 watch never could count steps. Watch or app or health data issue? Not worth worrying about. That’s what apple counts on. Same thing with ipad air that bricked after one year.

  6. Contacted apple support after trying all of the above with no success. They want 6 weeks and $349 to fix the problem in a watch tha5 is less than 18 months old. Planned obsolescence anyone?


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