Lending a helping hand can lead to a healthier life
June 2013 

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Many of us are looking for ways to get healthy or stay healthy, like eating better and exercising. And now, you can add one more activity to your list: volunteering.

Volunteering is giving your time and talents to help other people. An article on the website, NationalService.gov, lists its many benefits. They include feelings of pride, satisfaction, and accomplishment.1

The benefits of volunteering add up
The positive effects of volunteering can be physical, too. In the past 20 years, research has shown that volunteering is good for your health. The Corporation of National and Community Service recently published a report, “The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research,” that showed a strong relationship between volunteering and health.1 Compared to people who do not volunteer, those who do have:

• lower mortality rates
• greater mental and physical abilities
• lower rates of depression later in life
 
Studies show that volunteering has other benefits as well. People who volunteer say it helps them fight obesity and stress. It can also help people cut down on or quit smoking. 

Keeping physically and mentally active can also improve your state of mind. Many older adults claim that they have experienced better health and well-being by volunteering.1

How do you sign up?
How do you become a volunteer? According to an article at Newsweekshowcase.com,2 there are ways just about everyone can lend a hand. 

A good way to start is by deciding what you have to offer. Also, think about what motivates you. Jim Gibbons, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International, suggests trying to connect with a group with similar interests to your own.

“You may want to choose services that use your professional skills,” he said. Or, you may want to choose services that offer a change of pace.

“You spend your whole week solving a certain kind of problem,” added Gibbons. “But you might want to help in another way. It’s worth investigating a few options.”

Gibbons also suggested websites such as VolunteerMatch.org that can guide you to the right opportunity. Another great resource is the website Serve.gov

Older, wiser and volunteering
If you’re 55 and older, you’re in the age group that gets the biggest health and social boosts. In The Health Benefits of Volunteering review, older volunteers reported the greatest increases in life satisfaction.2

There are many opportunities for older people who want to volunteer in their communities. The Corporation of National and Community Service offers a program called Senior Corps. Senior Corps specifically helps people older than 55 looking for volunteer options. Another option is Experience Corps. Experience Corps is a program offered by Civic Ventures. This program recruits people looking for tutoring and mentoring opportunities.2

You receive more than you give
“Volunteerism is as much for the volunteer as it is for the recipient of the volunteer service,” Gibbons said.

Viewing volunteerism from this angle brings an incentive beyond simply doing good works for others. By taking care of others’, you’re taking care of your well-being too.

1 “Benefits of Volunteering,” http://www.nationalservice.gov/about/volunteering/benefits.asp
2 “Benefits of volunteerism: How everybody gains,” http://www.newsweekshowcase.com/health/articles/Benefits-of-volunteerism