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Shaping up: Home-grown app, Green WALK Hong Kong, is the pick of the mobile apps

Everyone wants us to walk more, and, let’s be honest, we know we should.

To stay in optimal shape and health, guidelines set by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department guidelines recommend at least five workouts a week of cardiorespiratory endurance exercise, each session lasting 30 to 60 minutes.

There’s no shortage of mobile apps willing us off the couch and out the door – which is handy, considering that you wouldn’t leave home without your phone. In order to stick to what may become a daily habit, the trick is to find the one that works for you. Chances are it’ll be the app that makes walking feel enjoyable.

Top of our list is a home-grown Hong Kong app, Green WALK Hong Kong. It’s the brainchild of the non-profit World Green Organisation (WGO), established to advocate for a low carbon lifestyle by walking more, and using vehicles less. “Walking not only cultivates a healthier lifestyle but also helps reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change,” explains CEO Dr William Yu. He drives the point home by saying that while the air quality of Hong Kong has improved, it is still far below the World Health Organisation’s standards.

Yu believes that the app, downloadable from the WGO website, could be the first of its kind in the world. It counts steps, of course, but the software’s developers have found a way to convert that into carbon savings. “If 10,000 people walked 10,000 steps in one day, we could save 1,875kg of CO2,” he says.

While the organisers hope Hongkongers would use the app every day, the campaign will reach a crescendo on Green WALK Hong Kong 2016 day on November 5. Registered participants can clock up their steps (and carbon savings) while exploring the historical and cultural sites Hong Kong has to offer. A downloadable map will lead walkers to checkpoints on the day, where they will find green workshops, discount offers, freebies and photo-shooting hot spots.

Another Hong Kong walking app designed to get us out exploring is iDiscover City Walks.

This app is a product of Urban Discovery, a Hong Kong-based social enterprise with a mission to keep heritage alive for a vibrant urban future. It takes users on a curated walk as seen through a local’s eyes, recounting the stories and legends behind the quaint neighbourhoods you are visiting.

The app is navigable via five categories: iSee, iDrink, iEat, iShop and iSurprise. It won the City Tech Award at the Walk21HK conference, and received the Chapter Citation from AIA Hong Kong, a chapter of The American Institute of Architects.

The Hong Kong Map and Walks app features self-guided walks around the city, including street names and business/restaurant addresses, a “findme” function, and movement tracking. Users can track their steps, take photos along the way, and share both with friends.

Tourism body Discover Hong Kong has two free app-based guides which, although aimed at visitors, include itineraries for off-the-beaten-path neighbourhoods which may be unfamiliar to locals.

If you’re in a rush to get from A to B, – or your legs give up – the government app HkeTransport minimises walking by calculating the fastest route to the nearest public transportation. Which of course defeats the purpose of all those other apps, but still?