Volunteering is a positive way to engage your community and make a difference. While the social benefits of volunteering your time are well established, research indicates that volunteering also benefits individual health as well.

1. It leads to greater satisfaction with life

Volunteering not only helps others, but it makes you feel great. Research shows that volunteering increases your sense of personal purpose. The increased sense of purpose often leads to greater satisfaction with your life and increased happiness.

2. Volunteering connects you with others

Whether you volunteer with a group or on your own, volunteering reinforces social skills and bonds. Donating your time is a great way to meet new people that share common interests and broaden your support network. For those volunteering with people they already know, committing to a shared activity is a great way to strengthen existing relationships. Either way, volunteering gets you out of the house and interacting with people. According to the CDC, a key risk factor for depression is social isolation. Volunteering keeps you in regular contact with others and helps you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against stress and depression when you’re going through challenging times.

3. It increases physical activity

There are many different ways to volunteer and some activities involve more physical movement than others. Even if you’re not shooting baskets with your “little brother,” you are likely moving your body in some way! Every step counts and the CDC recommends walking 10,000 steps per day – or almost five miles. The effect of volunteering on physical activity is especially important for older volunteers who may not get out of the house as much.

4. The earlier you start volunteering, the more long-term health benefits you gain

A number of studies indicate that those individuals who begin volunteering at an earlier age experience better health outcomes and greater functional ability later in life. Getting your children involved in volunteer activities is a great way to boost their self-esteem, develop positive social relationships, and improve their life-long health.

5. The older you are when volunteering, the more immediate health benefits you gain

People aged 65 and older are more likely to experience physical inactivity and a diminished sense of purpose when their social roles change. Volunteering in positive community activities rejuvenates a person’s sense of social responsibility and gives them a defined purpose. Research even shows volunteers may maintain their independence longer as they grow older because of the mental and physical stimulation experienced while volunteering.

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