Forget 10,000 steps a day! How to use Fitbit active zone minutes and why they matter

active zone minutes on Fitbit for Cardio

It’s time to toss out the 10,000 steps a day rule and replace it with a weekly goal for overall moderate-intensity and/or vigorous activity! Yes, really…let go of that step per day goal.

Fitbit folks know that keeping track of how active we are throughout the day helps us reach our weekly fitness goals. While all Fitbit smartwatches and trackers tally your active minutes, the Charge (4+), Ionic, Sense, Inspire 2, and Versa Series now tally your active zone minutes which measure time spent in each of your heart rate zones (fat burn, cardio, or peak heart-rate zones.) Fitbit Inspire 2 with active zone minutes

Fitbit awards you with varying Active Zone Minutes based on your heart-rate zone during your workouts. The more intense you workout, the more Active Zone Minutes your earn–it’s that simple.

And that’s how Fitbit’s Active Zone Minutes help you maximize your fitness and training routines and meet your weekly fitness goals!

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What’s the difference between Fitbit’s active minutes and active zone minutes?

First off, Fitbit calculates Active Zone Minutes differently from the Active Minutes.

Fitbit awards active minutes for each minute of activity, regardless of how strenuous that activity was. Additionally, the active minutes feature does not take your heart rate into consideration.

But with Fitbit’s Active Zone Minutes, your resting heart rate and the heart rate zones you hit during your activity matters. And Fitbit awards you with weighted minutes depending on what heart rate zone you hit during your activity.  Today tab in Fitbit with active zone minutes

All activity is not equal!

In a nutshell, you receive 2X for each minute logged in either cardio or peak heart-rate zones while you earn 1X for each minute logged in the fat-burning zone.

Fitbit uses the formula of 220 minus your current age to estimate your maximum heart rate. From there, Fitbit calculates your fat burning, cardio, and peak heart rates using the following formulas:

  • Your Cardio Heart-Rate Zone
    • Intensity: Hard (70 to 84 percent of your maximum heart rate)
    • Benefit: Builds cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength
  • Your Peak Heart-Rate Zone
    • Intensity: Vigorous (85 to 100 percent of your maximum heart rate)
    • Benefit: Increases performance speed
  • Fat Burn
    • Intensity: Moderate (50 to 69 percent of your maximum heart rate)
    • Benefit: Builds aerobic endurance and teaches the body to burn fat as fuel

Earn Active Zone Minutes throughout your day, not just when engaging in exercise

One of the best features of Fitbit’s active zone is that you earn active zone minutes throughout your day. You earn Active Zone Minutes for each and every minute of activity that hits either the fat burn, cardio, or peak heart-rate zone–regardless of the total length of your activity. earn active zone minutes with Fitbit in any activity regardless of length of activity

That means you may earn active zone minutes when raking the leaves, performing household chores and housework like vacuuming your home, mowing the lawn, or even climbing up a flight (or two) of stairs.

Conversely, to earn Fitbit Active Minutes, you must first meet the minimum threshold of constantly moving for 10 minutes or more.

And that’s one reason we love Fitbit’s active zone minutes–they are more like us in capturing the long and brief moments of activity, when our heart is elevated and pumping!

Active Zone Minutes are personalized fitness!

Another awesome feature of Fitbit’s active zone minutes is that they personalize to you. Since Fitbit uses your heart rate information, your active zone minutes are personalized based on both your age AND your fitness level.

What sends your heart rate into a fat burn, cardio, or peak heart rate is different from another person–and active zone minutes accounts for that.

How you earn and manage Fitbit’s Active Zone Minutes

You earn your minutes by engaging in moderate to vigorous activity–it’s a simple as that!

As Fitbit monitors your heart rate during that activity, it awards active zone minutes for each minute you maintain in either the fat burn, cardio, or peak heart-rate zone.

Once you start your workout or activity, by default you’ll see a notification on your Fitbit about what active zone you’re exercising in. Additionally, your Fitbit vibrates–the number of times your device buzzes indicates which zone you’re in.

  • 1 soft buzz=below fat burning zone (Sense, Versa, & Ionic only)
  • 1 buzz=fat burning zone
  • 2 buzzes=cardio zone
  • 3 buzzes=peak zone

While you get 1 Active Zone Minute each minute in the fat burn zone, you get 2 Active Zone Minutes for each real-time minute in the cardio or peak zone.

Because you earn 2X the actual minutes for intense workouts that hit the cardio or peak heart-rate zones, you may end up earning MORE minutes for your workout than the real workout time. Fitbit active zone minutes earn 2X minutes with Fitbit Versa

Intense workouts include activities like running, spinning, uphill cycling, cross-training, and even heavy housework!

For example, if you ride your Peloton for a total of 30 minutes and spent 10 minutes in the fat burn zone and 20 minutes in either the cardio or peak zone, you earn a total of 50 Active Zone Minutes for that 30-minute workout.

That’s almost two times the minutes you actually spent working out!

So if your life runs low on time to devote to exercise, you can actually maximize your activity by getting more in less time.

What about active zone minutes while swimming? Fitbit active zone minutes for swimming with Versa and Ionic

At this time, your water-resistant Fitbit device doesn’t track your heart rate during your swim workouts. Consequently, you only earn at the fat burn rate of 1 Active Zone Minute for each minute of swimming.

Fitbit automatically sets a goal to earn 150 Active Zone Minutes each week.

This number is based on the recommendations of both the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization for healthy adults perform a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, or a combination of both, each week.

That breaks down into a default daily target is 22 minutes.

But it’s flexible, hit that target one day, go over the next, and under on the weekend. The important milestone is your weekly active zone minute target of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity or a combination of both.

How to change your Fitbit’s Active Zone Minutes goal

It’s easy to update your active zone minutes goal in the Fitbit app!

  1. Open the Fitbit app
  2. Tap the Today tab
  3. Scroll down to the GOALS section
  4. Tap Daily Activity active zone minutes setting on Fitbit app
  5. Choose Active Zone Minutes
    1. Update the number to meet your personal goal. Remember these are daily numbers, so if you have a weekly goal in mind, divide it by 7 or the number of days you want to track your activity

How do I know when I’m earning active zone minutes with my Fitbit?

Your Fitbit notifies you and buzzes when your heart rate hits one of these zones and you start earning Active Zone Minutes!

Tired of all these vibrations from your Fitbit?

While some folks love getting these notifications, many are displeased by the constant vibrations on their devices.

Luckily, it’s fairly easy to disable (or enable) these active zone minute notifications on your Fitbit.

How to turn on or off active zone notifications on your Fitbit

  • Go to your Fitbit’s Settings app (on the device, not the app or dashboard) and turn on or off Active Zone Minute notifications or Heart Zone Alerts
  • In the Exercise app on your Fitbit, find an exercise then swipe up on the arrow and tap Heart Rate Zone Notifications

Review your active zone minutes information

Don’t see Active Zone Minutes for your Fitbit?

If your Fitbit and the Fitbit app or dashboard isn’t showing you active zone minutes, first make sure it is a supported device.

At this time only the Inspire 2, Charge 4, Ionic, Sense, and Versa series offer this feature.

For those with a supported device, you must run Fitbit OS 4.2 or above

To update your Fitbit’s firmware, use the Fitbit app, Fitbit Connect, or Fitbit’s online dashboard

How to update your Fitbit’s firmware and operating system to the latest Fitbit OS

Firmware updates only become available if you allow the Fitbit app to run in the background of your paired mobile device. If you use an older Fitbit OS, you may also need to turn on All Day Syncing in the Fitbit app

  1. Charge your Fitbit to at least 50%
  2. Place your Fitbit within range of your paired device and open the Fitbit app
  3. Tap the Today tab
  4. Select your profile picture or icon and choose your device Fitbit device from the list
  5. Tap the pink Update button
    1. This button only appears if an update is available for your device look for the pink banner to update your Fitbit firmware and Fitbit OS
  6. Follow the on-screen instructions and keep the device close to your paired mobile device or computer during the update
  7. Once the update begins, you should see a progress bar on your device and in the Fitbit app until the update is complete

Want to disable Active Zone Minutes for your Fitbit device? Go back to Active Minutes instead?

Some of our readers are unhappy with this change and would like instead to see their active minutes.

Sadly, at this time there is no way to show active minutes instead of active zone minutes.

If you want to see the real-time you actually exercised for that day, take a look at your Fitbit account’s web dashboard which currently does not show zone minutes.

Wrapping it up

As you might have guessed from this article, Fitbit is moving away Active Minutes to Active Zone Minutes. Fitbit believes that active zone minutes provide users with a better, more data-rich snapshot of how their bodies respond and change with exercise and activity.

We love that Fitbit is adding in this type of fitness personalization based on both fitness level and age. And we think it’s only going to get better and refined as we move forward.

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. 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!


  1. Active Zone Minutes would be great if it hadn’t got buggy. I went for a walk in the rain for an hour today, so I was going FAST, but the new AZM only recorded 20 minutes. Ridiculous.

    They need to sort out the bug/algorithm urgently before it kills someone trying to achieve what are now unreachable goals.

  2. I just purchased the Versa 2 last night, I had the Versa until that point. My Versa was using the Active Zone minutes, but the Versa 2 isn’t, and there does not appear to be an update for it – is it just something I will have to wait for?

    • Hi Desiree,

      It’s likely that your new Versa 2 just needs a software update–you should see a banner to update your Versa 2 soon.

      Place your Fitbit Versa 2 on its charger and then bring your Fitbit close to your mobile device with the Fitbit app. Wait for the Fitbit to sync with the app. Syncing it might help get the update notification.

      Also, on your mobile device with the Fitbit app, make sure you turn on and allow background app refresh for the Fitbit app.

      If the software version your Fitbit Versa 2 uses includes a toggle for All Day Sync, turn that on as well.

  3. I have a versa 2 and my app is updated. I get the zone heart rate minutes but I don’t see it at all in my fit bits notifications. I can turn off the heart rate all together, but that isn’t what I want. I just want it to stop vibrating between zones! Any advice?


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