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The Physical Benefits of Volunteering

Volunteering has been a critical part of my life, and the privilege of giving back to my community holds great value for me. Both of my parents set the perfect example by doing various types of volunteer work for their entire lives. 


While giving of yourself can mean a big commitment, the rewards are many. If you are an active volunteer, you are already enjoying the perks of being selfless! If not, read on to learn about the many physical benefits you can experience while giving back!


Did you know that volunteering improves how you are feeling physically? This fact is based on science; the part of the body responsible for our feelings of getting a reward is stimulated when we do good. When the brain releases these ‘feel-good’ chemicals, we feel, and do, better! There is also evidence to suggest that regular volunteering can help combat the symptoms of depression.


While it depends on the type of volunteering you choose, many roles offer the opportunity to learn a new skill and  develop your strength, coordination, and reaction time. For example, I spent many years as a volunteer firefighter, and our training practices and emergency calls required me to be in great shape. Many volunteer roles such as firefighting require  strength and stamina. Jobs like this also need you to be on your feet and work hard for long stretches. 


The  Mayo Clinic reports that people who choose to volunteer are more “physically and mentally active.” They also report that those who volunteer report reduced stress and lower mortality rates among those who give back. Further, as volunteering increases your life satisfaction and happiness, you are more likely to engage in other positive lifestyle habits such as eating well and exercising regularly. 


Other research suggests that regular volunteers experience fewer major illnesses and that by being more active through volunteering, some can reduce their blood pressure and improve their heart health. Others find that chronic pain symptoms can be reduced. These health benefits should not come as a surprise; being sedentary leads to health decline, while volunteering requires you to be active!


While there is a volunteer role for everyone, including those with limited physical abilities, roles that require more physicality offer greater physical benefits. These benefits include a decrease in back pain, obesity, and high blood pressure! So, if you are looking for a new challenge and want to feel a part of something larger than yourself, get out of the hose and get busy!


If you are looking for a role that will really get you active, consider volunteering as a sports coach. Most communities are always searching for coaches; youth soccer, baseball, hockey are great examples. Other opportunities to get active while volunteering include building projects, such as those done by Habitat for Humanity. 


Many communities hold neighborhood clean-up days, tree planting sessions, and recreational races.  Walks and runs for charity are an excellent opportunity to commit to and experience a quick one-day event. Your community may need volunteers to pack school lunches or to pack backpacks for give-aways! Food banks and thrift stores always need someone strong to stack, pack, load, and move goods. These activities all need volunteers who can offer their strength and skills to be successful!


Want to spend your volunteer hours outside and get a great workout in? Find, or start, a community garden where you can contribute to your neighborhood by growing sustainable, local produce! Also, many animal shelters are eager to have volunteers come by and walk dogs;  walking dogs is a great way to get in your cardiovascular exercise and improve your heart health.


To choose the proper volunteer position, do your homework. Many communities offer an organization that serves as a central hub for groups searching for volunteers. First, find something that you love to do, or show your unique skills. Then, start gently with just a few hours a week to ensure your choice is correct and so that your other commitments can adjust to this newest addition to your schedule. 

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