5 Apps for Spending Time Outside and Connecting With Nature
If you want to spend more time in nature but need a little nudge to get out there, then look to your smartphone or tablet for help. Whether you want to spend more time hiking and camping or simply take a lap around the block occasionally, this collection of apps can help you make the most of your time in nature.
How Does Going Outside Affect Your Health?
Spending time in nature correlates with plenty of health benefits, from improved sleep to better heart health, according to research from the University of East Anglia. But it isn’t just your body that benefits from time in green spaces.
People who are more connected to nature tend to have a greater sense of well-being, especially in terms of personal growth, according to a study from the Journal of Happiness Studies. Spending time outdoors can be so beneficial, but sometimes it’s tricky to prioritize that time outside. That’s where these apps can come in handy.
The NatureDose app tracks the time you spend outside, giving you higher scores for spending more time in green spaces. To start, set your weekly goal for how many minutes to spend outdoors per week. People living in an urban environment might aim for 60 minutes, while those in more rural environments can go for 120 minutes on average. Set your goal with your own lifestyle and environment in mind.
Once your goal is set, go outside for a bit and the app will start recording your data. Your location matters in terms of how much credit you receive. For instance, exploring a suburban neighborhood gets you partial credit, while spending time in a park provides full credit for every minute. In general, you need to be away from buildings for the app to count your time spent outdoors.
There’s also the option to enroll in a scientific study and share your data from this app. You will need to create an account in order to use the app, and it does track your location in order to work.
Download: NatureDose for iOS | Android (Free)
2. Relive: Run, Ride, Hike & Walk
The Relive app can track and share your experiences in nature. It’s essentially a social media app for people who love outdoor activities.
While setting up the app, you’ll select the type of activity you enjoy most, whether that’s cycling, swimming, hiking, running, or something else. You can then set up a profile and share stats such as your activities, distance covered, and time spent being active.
When you’re ready to participate in your activity, hit the record button and get going. Take some photos along the way to share as well, because the app also includes an activity feed. A selection of challenges gives you different goals to aim for, whether that’s spending more time outdoors, recording your activity for a certain number of days, or running for a total of 50 hours.
Sharing the feed is a key component of the app. Follow your friends and others in the Relive community to stay connected and inspired to keep going. You can connect other popular fitness trackers to Relive, including Garmin Connect, Wahoo, and Apple Health.
Download: Relive: Run, Ride, Hike & Walk for iOS | Android (Free, subscription available)
3. Roots: Connect with Nature
Enjoy meditations, soundscapes, and audio-guided experiences based on the natural world with the Roots app.
Once you set up an account, the app opens with lush natural photos and plenty of options to explore. First, the Experiences screen offers up audio content, such as a Mindful Stroll in the Forest, an Ocean Meditation, and a Rain Meditation. By combining the benefits of mindful walking meditation with the natural area around you, the app creates a unique experience.
On a similar note, the collection of Soundscapes can help you relax to the sounds of waves, rainfall, campfire crackles, and many more natural noises. Some unexpected sounds include a coyote chorus, cricket thunder, and frogs in a bayou—not recordings you’ll find in the average soundscape collection. It’s one way to virtually experience nature when you’re indoors.
Lastly, the Meditations tab includes a variety of recordings suited to your mood. Nature-based meditations focused on the moon, ocean, and sunrise are plentiful. Loving-kindness meditations, a body scan, and breath work are all included, as well. A great deal of content is available for free with the Roots app, but you will need a subscription to access everything.
Download: Roots: Connect with Nature for iOS (Free, subscription available)
4. Forest Bathing Life
Follow the guided lessons to engage with the natural world on a more regular basis through the Forest Bathing Life app. The practice of deliberately experiencing the forest with all of your senses, forest bathing is a meditative, contemplative practice, according to the Global Wellness Institute. This app is a great choice for anyone looking to make the most of their time outdoors.
The app has 5 sections:
- The Forest Bathing Life
- Nature Soundscape Listening
- Virtual Forest Bathing Walks
- 30-Day Sit Spot Celebration
The Fundamentals section introduces the concept of forest bathing and outlines its benefits. Meanwhile, the Forest Bathing Life section includes over 20 sessions you can access at any time, including guided forest bathing and nature meditations.
While some of the sessions are free to try, access to the full app does require additional purchases.
Download: Forest Bathing Life for iOS | Android (Free, in-app purchases available)
Use guided forest therapy meditations to increase your enjoyment of your own green spaces with TreeQuility: The Forest Therapy App. Kick off your journey with any of the 10-minute forest therapy sessions, such as Forest Therapy 101 or Earth Elements, which help you connect deeper with nature in your own way.
In addition, the Parks and Gardens section includes forest therapy sessions set in famous spaces such as the New York Botanical Garden and Hyde Park, London. With this guided narration, you can practice settling your mind during an imaginary walk on Primrose Hill, no matter where you are on the planet.
Meanwhile, the Big Nature section includes meditations you can do in any green space, whether that’s your local park or backyard. These mediations focus on many themes, such as accepting changes or celebrating your individuality. The narrator may also ask you to take notice of the nearby natural world, whether that’s new leaves or flying birds.
On another note, the Small Wonders meditation section brings forest therapy into any space. These meditations may ask you to focus on the rain outside your window, a houseplant, or your own imagination.
Many meditations are available to try for free, but access to all content requires a subscription. For the most part, anyone interested in deepening their meditation practice and experience with the natural world may appreciate this positive, feature-filled app.
Download: TreeQuility for iOS | Android (Free, subscription available)
Spend More Time Enjoying the Outdoors With Apps
Whether you want to exercise, meditate, or simply enjoy the scenery, these apps can encourage you to spend more of your time outdoors. With a little nudge from your smartphone, you’ll spend more time enjoying the fresh air and exploring nearby green spaces.