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Simply Fit, by Cindy Haskin-Popp, will help you make physical activity a part of everyday life. The health benefits of regular exercise and overall daily physical activity will be discussed. Fun, practical and easy-to-follow tips on an exercise program will be shared, as will the most current research. Fitness tips for families and seniors, on fitness centers and on buying proper and affordable equipment will be regularly given. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Do You Want to Live Longer? Become a Volunteer!

During this week, April 18-24, 2010, the nation will be "Celebrating People in Action" - the theme for this year's annual National Volunteer Week, an observance promoted by the Points of Light Institute and the HandsOn Network.  Established in 1974,  National Volunteer Week is devoted to encouraging Americans to reach out and help others in the community.  It is also a time to give special recognition to those who have already made an impact by voluntarily serving others.

Whether walking dogs for the local Humane Society or providing aid to those half-way around the globe who have lost homes and/or loved ones from a natural disaster, the acts of volunteers help to make the world a better place.  Individual lives have been changed for the better and whole communities have become strengthened through volunteerism.  Benefits derived from civic engagement not only occur for those who receive, but for those who give as well.  In 2007, The Corporation for National & Community Service released a document, The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research.  This publication presented findings from a review of more than 30 studies that investigated the relationship between volunteering and health.

The Health Benefits of Volunteering review found that by helping others you can directly impact your own health for the better.  Volunteering does not just provide a heartwarming experience, but a heart protecting one too.  In other words, doing good for your community does good for your body.  The data from the review support that there is a firm association between volunteering and health.  The health benefits derived from volunteering include:
  • Longer lifespan/decreased mortality rates
  • Improved functional ability
  • Lower risk for heart disease
  • Decreased rates of depression
The key findings from The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research are as follows:
  • Adults 60 years of age and older who volunteer reap greater benefits, such as improved mental and physical health and greater life satisfaction, than their volunteering younger counterparts. 
  • There is a "volunteering threshold."  That is, in order to gain health benefits you need to volunteer approximately 2 hours per week (about 100 hours per year).  The review found that volunteering more hours than this does not provide additional health benefits.
  • The younger you are when you begin volunteering, the lower your risk will be for poor health in the future.
  • States that have the greatest volunteer rates experience better health and have the lowest rates of mortality and incidences of heart disease; whereas, states with the lowest rates of volunteers have the poorest health.
Meeting the 2 hours per week "volunteering threshold" in order to gain associated health benefits may seem like a lot to ask, especially if your schedule is already so full it is hard to find time to even exercise. A good option to fit both of these into your day is to find a volunteering opportunity that also provides you with physical activity.  Volunteer experiences such as community gardening, walking dogs for your local Human Society, and visiting and walking with residents in nursing/group homes are all wonderful ways to to give back to your community while also getting in some physical activity.

Celebrate National Volunteer Week and become a volunteer, by so doing, you will get "paid" in good health.

Corporation for National and Community Service, Office of Research and Policy Development. The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research, Washington, DC 2007

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