Apps to help your physical and mental wellbeing

words by Emma Richardson, Monday 1 July 2024

In 2024, we’re lucky to have a growing number of great mobile apps for improving physical and mental wellbeing.

As more apps are developed, it’s hard to know which ones are based on evidence and really work.

So, we’ve researched and tested several iOS and Android apps designed to enhance wellbeing. Keep reading for some of our favourite below.

Apps designed to reduce or limit screen time

Research suggests that excessive screen time is linked with poor psychological and physical health outcomes, including negatively impacted sleep, problems with inattention, reduced work productivity, increased stress levels, and reduced quality of life. Because of this, several apps have been developed to help you to reduce or limit your screen time. Learn more about two of these, Freedom and Forest, below.

Freedom: iOS | Android
Freedom helps you to manage your screen time by blocking chosen apps and websites, with the app claiming that users report gaining an average of 2.5 hours of productive time each day. Freedom can cover all your devices and gives you the option to create custom blocklists and recurring schedules. You can start using the app for free, but need to pay to access all features.

Forest: iOS | Android
Forest helps you to stay focused by asking you to virtually plant a tree in the app each time you want to stay on task. This tree will continue to grow over time, as long as you leave your device untouched. However, if you leave the app, your tree will die. Forest also partners with Trees for the Future, who plant real trees when users spend virtual coins. Forest is free to access, but there is a small cost if you wish to access all features.

Apps that remind you to hydrate and drink water

We all know the importance and benefits of staying hydrated. However, remembering to drink water throughout the day can be a challenge when life gets busy. Learn more about two water tracking apps below, Water Tracker: WaterMinder and Plant Nanny.

Water Tracker: WaterMinder: iOS | Android
Water Tracker: WaterMinder is a simple water tracking app that helps you to stay hydrated by assisting you to set water intake goals and then to track your daily water intake. You can also view previous intake, collect badges for achievements, set reminders to hydrate, and track your caffeine intake. This app is available to download for free, but has a cost to access all features.

Plant Nanny: iOS | Android
Plant Nanny is an app that turns drinking water into a game, where each glass of water you drink helps you to grow adorable plants. Plant Nanny allows you to make customised hydration goals, earn rewards for drinking water, view charts that track your water intake, and care for the health of very cute plants. You can access a free version of Plant Nanny, but need to pay a subscription to access the full version.

Apps that help you to move your body

Living a sedentary lifestyle, including spending too much time sitting or lying down, can increase your risk of chronic health conditions, negatively impact your mental health, and raise your risk of an early death (argh!). Below are two apps that can help improve a sedentary lifestyle by encouraging you to get up and stretch throughout the day and by turning exercise into an adventure.

StretchMinder: iOS | Android
StretchMinder is designed for busy professionals and office workers who forget to take breaks or move, suffer from physical tension or pain, or are concerned about the negative health outcomes associated with being sedentary. The app includes personalised reminders and professionally designed videos of low-impact exercises to improve the way your body feels. StretchMinder provides basic features for free, but to unlock more advanced features you will need to purchase a subscription.

ZRX: Zombies, Run + Marvel Move: iOS | Android
ZRX: Zombies, Run + Marvel Move is an app designed to motivate you to run. It uses a story element to keep you motivated and interested in running, either running from zombies or engaging in other missions that include Marvel characters, such as The Incredible Hulk and Thor. You can access some of this content for free, but to gain access to all missions and features you’ll need to pay for a membership.

Apps to help you get a better night’s sleep

Getting enough good quality sleep is essential; it supports immune function, prevents the development of chronic health conditions, improves cognitive function and performance, reduces the risk for mental health issues, and leads to better life satisfaction. Because of this, many sleep apps have been created, and below you can learn about two of these supported by the Sleep Foundation, Sleep Cycle and Slumber.

Sleep Cycle: iOS | Android
Sleep Cycle tracks and analyses your sleep, giving you the tools you need to understand, improve, and enjoy your sleep. The Sleep Cycle app includes an alarm that will wake you during your ideal wake window, gives you daily insights into your sleep quality, and provides tailored advice. Sleep Cycle allows you to trial the app for free, but to access all features you will need to purchase a premium subscription.

Slumber: iOS | Android
Slumber uses a variety of functions and science-based techniques that encourage calm and relaxation to improve your sleep. Specifically, Slumber includes an extensive audio library with stories, meditations, soundscapes, and music that are designed to help you quiet your mind and guide you to sleep. This app is available for free with limited features, but a subscription can be purchased to access all content.

Apps for mindfulness and meditation

Both mindfulness and meditation have been shown to have many benefits, including reducing worries, anxiety, and stress; improving concentration and productivity; increasing empathy and connectedness; and improving sleep. There are many wonderful well-known apps for mindfulness and meditation, including Headspace and Calm. However, we have chosen to introduce you to two other excellent free mindfulness/meditation apps, Smiling Mind and Insight Timer.

Smiling Mind: iOS | Android
Smiling Mind is an Australian app developed by psychologists and educators that provides free evidence-based mindfulness and meditation practices for all ages. Smiling Mind contains programs for adults, children, classrooms, and workplaces, and includes programs on stress, sleep, attention and concentration, relationships, performance, and more.

Insight Timer: iOS | Android
Insight Timer is an app that contains an extensive free library of guided meditation and mindfulness activities. It also offers yoga, mood tracking, workshops, and courses on a range of topics, such as stress management and improving self-worth. The library of meditations is available for free, but there is also a premium subscription that includes access to additional features, such as offline listening and premium meditation courses.