Nature Is Medicine. But What’s the Right Dose?
A new app called NatureQuant harnesses the latest research to track and rate your time outside. Next up: determining how much you need.
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
The corporate origin story is almost perfect. Once upon a time, a data guy, a software guy, and an environmental physiologist met on a hut-to-hut ski traverse of Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness. Snowy chutes under bluebird skies by day, then starry nights in rustic huts stocked with Bend’s finest microbrews. Mountain air and hearty camaraderie. No cell service. Though they didn’t know it at the time, the three men were ticking off the four domains that would subsequently be at the heart of their AI-powered algorithm for quantifying the health benefits of nature: environmental quality, stress reduction, physical activity, and social contact.
Of course, every medicine has its side effects. Christopher Bailey, the software guy—ex–Adobe Systems, at the time the chief technology officer for an app called HotelTonight, which was bought by Airbnb in 2019—had some pretty bad heel blisters, rubbed right down to the fatty tissue. And on the last night, Chris Minson, a University of Oregon physiologist, crashed out of a friendly “pick stuff up from the floor with your teeth while standing on one leg” balance competition—while sipping his first drink of the evening, he is at pains to clarify—and broke his fifth metatarsal, an injury that required a snowmobile extraction, a bone graft from his shin, and the surgical insertion of a metal plate. Nonetheless, something clicked. A seed was planted.