Over the past few years, there has been a push in our area to increase physical activity and promote healthy lifestyles. I think this is probably a nationwide push, but I know that our city experienced a lot of road construction headaches when the powers at be decided to add more sidewalks and bicycle routes along popular roadways in order to promote physical activity over a sedentary lifestyle. A local health-based foundation even launched an initiative, Upgrade Now, to help people make small adjustments in their daily routines to improve their lives.

I am all for making healthy lifestyle decisions and using technology to do it. In 2010, I made a personal lifestyle change and used multiple apps on my iPhone to assist in my transformation. I have a renewed interest in improving my health again and began researching new apps to assist. Along the lines of our local Upgrade Now movement, I found an app called Walk Score that is based on a web service that helps users determine the walk-ability of a particular area.

Walk Score originated as a website, walkscore.com, and expanded to the iPhone app late in September this year to improve accessibility for users of the service. Their mission is to promote walkable neighborhoods. They also offer the ability within the app to find rental properties based on their walking score. Their hope with the iPhone app is that users will report problem spots and enhance the offerings of neighborhoods by sharing photos and descriptions of ‘neighborhood gems.’

In testing this app, I found that it is quite easy to use. When you open the app, the first screen gives you the option to ‘Find Nearby’ or to ‘Find Rentals.’ The Find Nearby option immediately takes you to a map of your current location. I was sad to find that our neighborhood only had the score of 55, but there is a lack of sidewalks and very few places within a decent walking distance of our house. I then searched out an address in our downtown area that I knew was within easy walking distance of several restaurants and coffeehouses. The score was much higher at 74.

One of the nice options of the map, just with most apps that utilize maps, is that you can pull up business’s information instantly and rate them. And, of course, you can share your findings on Facebook or Twitter.

After testing the Find Nearby option, I went back and tested the Find Rentals. Our area is not well-known for rental properties even though some are available. I was not expecting to see many offered. I was surprised to find a pretty wide range of rental homes and townhouses in our city. There are two views in the Find Rentals function of Walk Score – Map and List. In Map view, you can see all the locations of rental houses in a particular area. When you tap on a house icon, information about the property is shown, including the walk score. In the List view, you can scroll through a list of options in a particular area and pull up additional information when you tap on a listing. You can also sort the offerings on the list.

There is a filter function of the search that includes rent price, number of beds, better commute, near public transit, walk score and pet availability as filter options. If you register with Walk Score as a user, you can sync your favorite listings to view on your iPhone or the Walk Score website.

The concept Walk Score was intriguing to me coming from a town where walking from point A to point B is usually the exception and not the rule, but with apps and services like Walk Score, I could see less walkable cities, like ours, becoming more active. Apps like these take the guess-work out of physical activity and they are a great resource for those who wish to make changes in their lives.

I would recommend this app to anyone who wishes to start walking more and definitely if you are relocating to a new area. Walk Score is not yet optimized for iPhone 5.