Socialize in the Great Outdoors with these Engaging Apps!

The rise of mobile technology and the pervasive ownership of smartphones is often blamed for making our population more sedentary and less engaged with the outside world. After all, if you’re completely absorbed in observing other people’s weekends via Instagram stories or tuning into a Facebook Live video of an event halfway across the world, it’s hard to be engaged with the real world.
However, not all this criticism is fair. When you look at the ways people use smartphones to connect with others, there are plenty of examples of mobile, ever-present technology fostering more human connection and community, not less. In fact, there are a number of apps and services which have been designed to do the opposite of isolate: to get us out and about and engaging with strangers and the outside world and nature.
In fact, as counterintuitive as it may seem, there is even data to suggest that smartphone ownership can actually boost activity levels and physical health, especially when fitness tracker or step-counting apps are used with regularity.  In a study supported by the American Cancer Society, participants were reminded via a smartphone to move regularly and they wore accelerometers along with carrying their smartphones for seven days. “At the end of the study, which appeared in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, participants had significantly fewer minutes of daily sedentary time and more daily minutes of active time than controls.” The study’s authors noted: “Accelerometers recorded 3% less sedentary time than control participants, equalling about 25 minutes of time spent, engaged in activity rather than in sedentary behavior on any given day.”

If you’re keen to use your phone to get off your couch, here are some of the best apps you can download to boost your movement and activity.

Strava: If you’re a fan of running or cycling—or just trying to get into it for the first time—Strava offers two main benefits. It helps you track your routes, distance, and times and shows your improvement over time and also offers a social aspect, wherein you can follow other users of the app and see what physical pursuits they’re up to. For people who love to exercise in groups, there are even clubs you can join in your area to run or cycle with a crowd.
Nature Finder: Launched by the UK’s Wildlife Trust, this app will help you navigate and explore the UK’s nature reserves. With more than 2,000 catalogued places to visit as well as outdoor and nature-focused events and a catalogue of flora and fauna species, it has something for everyone from the dedicated outdoorsman to the casual hiker.
Ingress: The Pokémon Go craze may have died down now, but the app it was originally based on is still a great way to get yourself out of the door. Developed by Niantic, this location-based game comes with a science fiction plot-line that integrates with your real-world surroundings. The result is a kind of augmented reality experience that will have you engaged and on your feet all day.
Blue Plaques of London: If you’re more of an urban explorer rather than a nature-lover, then the Blue Plaques of London app will help you get your historical knowledge on while walking around the city. English Heritage has installed more than 900 blue plaques around London over the years denoting where historical and notable artists, musicians, writers, and politicians have lived. This app helps you find plaques in your current location and even provides guided tours for you to go on.
Couch to 5K: If upping your cardiovascular health in on your agenda, this app will guide you through a proven way to go from completely out of shape to running a 5k race in a reasonable timescale of nine weeks. The easy-to-manage increments are popular with couch potatoes as they help you reach attainable goals with just three workouts per week.