Your Garmin watch could soon track how much time you spend outdoors – and that's important

Man checking GPS watch during hike
(Image credit: Getty)

Garmin may soon introduce a feature that tracks how long you spend outside, and shows you how this changes over time in the Garmin Connect app. It's not something I've seen in any other GPS watches to date, and could have benefits for your physical and mental health.

The news comes from sports tech site the5krunner, which often gets the inside story on upcoming Garmin features thanks to reader tip-offs, and was one of the first to report on the long-awaited nap tracking tool that began arriving on the company's running watches last year.

The outdoor tracking feature is apparently called Nature Minutes, and will presumably give you a target to meet, similar to the existing Intensity Minutes goal.

It's not clear exactly how it will work, but there are a couple of possibilities. Your watch might simply monitor the time spent engaged in GPS-tracked activities, such as running, hiking, and cycling. However, that wouldn't be accurate unless you track every step you take outside. I can only speak for myself, but I don't select the Walk activity on my watch every time I head out to the train station or the shops.

Another possibility is that the new feature may only be available for watches with solar charging, and would track the time when your watch registers significant sun exposure. Again, this has limits; it wouldn't work if you're outdoors in cold weather and your wrists are covered, for example, or if you're working out before dawn or after sunset.

I'm looking forward to hearing about the method Garmin will use to calculate time spent outdoors, but however it works, it's certainly something worth encouraging.

The benefits of getting outdoors

The benefits of exercise are well documented, but simply being outside can be beneficial for your health, even if you're not working up a sweat. As we explain in our guide seven reasons why the great outdoors is awesome for your mental health, spending time outside can help reduce stress, limit excessive rumination associated with anxiety, and mitigate metal fatigue.

Many studies assume that you're able to access a green space (such as a wood or park), but even if you can't, getting outside can have benefits. For example, a 2012 study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Affective Disorders found that although the effect wasn't as pronounced as when participants took a walk in a natural environment, even a 50-minute walk in an urban location could help reduce negative feelings in people with major depressive disorder (MDD).

There's no more information about Nature Minutes available at the moment, but I'll keep my ear to the ground and let you know as soon as there's further news. It's possible that it might even be one of the features that sets the forthcoming Garmin Fenix 8 apart from its predecessors.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.