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Volunteering Is Good For Your Community—And Your Health

Posted December 15, 2022 by Christine Elerick, Director, Member Experience

Woman wearing a gray shirt and serving food

With today’s busy family schedules, fitting in time to volunteer can be challenging. But, finding the time to give back isn’t just a matter of kindness, it’s a matter of your health!

Volunteering makes a huge difference in the lives of others. Acts of service such as dishing out meals in a soup kitchen, fostering animals or making blankets for kids in hospitals give tremendous help to people in need, worthy causes and your community.

What you may not know is that volunteering also benefits you, the volunteer!

Researchers have found that volunteering can boost your mood, reduce stress and increase your physical activity—all things that make a person healthier in the long run.

SummaCare details five ways volunteering can make a positive impact on your life— both physically and mentally. It doesn’t have to mean a long-term commitment; it just means carving out some time each month to lend a helping hand in your community. It just may prolong your life!

Boosts your mood

When you volunteer your time, it gives you a boost of happiness. If animals make you happy, volunteering at an animal shelter will surely bring you joy. If you’re contributing to a cause that’s meaningful to you and making a difference in the world, you can’t help but feel happiness. 

In fact, studies show your body releases endorphins during positive social contact, similar to the physical response after a hard workout.

Connects you to others

Volunteering is a great way to increase your social interaction and broaden your support network by making new friends. It exposes you to people with common interests and gives you a sense of community and connectedness.

What’s more, research has shown all of these things lead to lower risks of depression, anxiety and feelings of loneliness.

Increases physical activity

Many volunteer activities require you to move—hosting a dance class at an assisted living facility, giving a museum tour, handing out flyers, washing cars for a fundraiser—all these and more are increases in physical activity. While these activities vary in the amount of physical exertion they require, they all get your heart rate up.

Staying active throughout your life is the single most powerful way to remain healthy. Benefits abound with regular physical activity, from lowering your risk of heart disease, strengthening muscles and controlling your weight to reducing stress, improving mental health and sleep.

Reduces stress

Volunteering and helping others can give you a sense of purpose and appreciation, which can be a stress reliever. Not to mention, socializing helps you take your mind off worries and escape life’s stressors.

In addition, physical exercise has been proven to play a key role in preventing and reducing the effects of stress.

If nothing else, understanding the challenges faced by others less fortunate than you could provide some perspective on your own struggles.

Prolongs your life

The benefits that come from volunteering your time contribute to a healthier — and perhaps longer — life. Increased stress, high blood pressure, depression and loneliness all can have a detrimental impact on your health. But, simply reducing or eliminating just one or two of these conditions through volunteering can greatly improve your overall health and quality of life.

In fact, a recent study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found older adults who volunteered more than 100 hours each year had a reduced risk of mortality than those who didn’t volunteer at all.

So, get up off the couch and make it a habit to regularly lend a helping hand in your community. You will thank yourself later on.