When Joel Seligman, the former president of Northern Westchester Hospital, returned from his vacation to China several years ago, he didn’t talk about the extraordinary Great Wall of China, the ancient Three Pagodas or even the numerous breathtaking mountains. What caught Seligman’s eye was something else entirely: seemingly everywhere he went, he noticed septuagenarians outside, moving, doing tai chi. It wasn’t a choreographed act for tourists –they were simply outside playing.

Seligman began to wonder why most Americans stop playing when we become adults? Why can’t we meet each other somewhere and enjoy being active together? Why can’t we still play together?

He pondered these questions for several years, sharing his thoughts with colleagues and what he could do about it.

“He regularly talked to me about this concept,” says Marla Koroly, MD, FACP, MBA who is the associate ambulatory physician executive for Northwell Health’s Westchester and Connecticut practices. “As kids, we played outside with our friends. We weren’t forced to exercise, we just naturally played with the kids on our street, and we enjoyed it. It wasn’t a chore that we had to check a box for, the way we might do at the gym today. It was fun to play with our friends, but it was also physical activity. Joel really wanted to recreate that experience for us as adults.”

Now his vision has come to life with a new, free app for all residents in Westchester called Meet & Move. It’s pretty simple to use. When you create an account, you select the activities you’d like to do – there’s everything from bird watching and Pilates to tennis and volunteer farming. Then, you can see when there are activities that match your interests.

Whether you enjoy the gym or feel intimidated, Northwell’s goal is to provide people with alternative ways to get their heart pumping, improving their physical and mental health. Research has repeatedly shown that exercise can improve anxiety, stress and depression. It’s also been shown to reduce inflammation and improve overall health.

For the introverts among us, Koroly says she can relate, and she understands the hesitation to show up for a class or hike with a group of complete strangers. But she encourages you to give it a chance.

“Activities like a group tour of John Jay Homestead or a nature hike in Ward Pound Ridge feature a guide who will do some of the talking,” she explains. “So, theoretically, you can go and listen, and you don’t have to say a word. But naturally, there’ll be others there with similar interests, and you’ll connect that way. You shouldn’t feel the pressure of having to engage in conversation – you can just enjoy the tour, and if it comes naturally, then that’s great.”

And for those that are new to the area, working full time, and haven’t had the opportunity to make the social connections they’d like, this app provides a great way to meet others.

“When I moved up here, I was a working mom, and I didn’t I didn’t get to connect with my neighbors the way stay-at-home moms did,” Koroly remembers. “I tried to connect with other moms, but it was hard. But this app can help you meet others with similar interests.”

We think this app is genius, and we kind of wish we’d come up with idea. We love a good, brisk walk and are always up for learning a bit more about our local history. We hope to see you out on the trails soon – we’ll bring the bug spray!

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Gia Miller is an award-winning journalist and content writer who lives in Katonah. Her work has appeared in Parents, The Washington Post, Healthline, Well + Good, Psych Central, SheKnows, SELF and more.