Volunteer for your health

Volunteering can help improve your health as well as your community.

What would you say if I told you volunteering could be part of your healthy lifestyle choices? Many of us made a resolution this year to improve our health – why not volunteer for something that will help you get the results you desire?

Volunteering in your community offers many benefits including greater life satisfaction, increased physical well-being and larger social networks. Volunteering provides the young, old and every age in between with the opportunity to interact with others, make new friends and increase their social interactions. In addition, volunteering can make your heart happy and healthy, according to a study by the Corporation for National and Community Service . This is particularly true for older adults who volunteered for 40 or more hours in a year.

Other studies over the years have also connected volunteering with better health and reducing the risk for certain diseases. It is interesting that individuals in their 60s who volunteered in their 20s and 30s reported better health outcomes than those who did not volunteer. When comparing the volunteerism rates of different states in the U.S., we discover those with higher volunteer rates report less heart disease and lower mortality rates.

Additional benefits may occur when the volunteer activity is one that requires you to be physically active; we know that staying physically active is important especially as we get older. Those who are physically active report being happier and may experience higher self- esteem. For those who may have challenges with physical activity, opportunities still exist and you will still enjoy many health benefits!

Not sure where to get started? Volunteering can be anything: helping an organization handle calls, update resources, research topics, manage databases, evaluate programs, create or prepare activities, handle social media or sharing your expertise in an advisory capacity. You could also teach a yoga class, organize a fundraiser or serve as a 4-H leader: all of which impact your community and can make your heart happy. Regardless of the activity you pick, benefits abound. When we share the best of ourselves and take a moment to share what we are passionate about, our sprits soar and we may even experience a decrease in our blood pressure.

In addition to helping yourself, when you incorporate volunteering into your plans to get healthy, it benefits others as well. When individuals are active volunteers, they set an example and are part of creating a culture of volunteerism in their community. As you think about volunteering, remember not only may you potentially increase your mental and physical health, but you will also improve your community.

Michigan State University Extension invites you to check out the volunteer opportunities that exist with 4-H Youth Development and consider how will you make a difference. Volunteer for your health today!

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