January 18th, 2019

Volunteering is good for the body and soul

By Medicine Hat News on January 11, 2019.

Every January, there seems to be a new health buzzword or diet craze introduced. Whether it is acai smoothies, or swapping cauliflower for all of the carbohydrates that you know and love. While I don’t know if I’m ready for that kind of commitment, I do know there is an often overlooked health benefit that doesn’t involve eating your body weight in kale: Volunteering!

Yes, some people do know about the mental health benefits of volunteering. It can help combat loneliness, encourage critical thinking and enhance your social skills. With volunteering, you can help foster friendships and connections with your community, which are great for your mental health and wellness. All of those things are fantastic for you and those around you, but it actually goes a lot deeper than that — volunteering can actually do a world of good for your physical health as well. At first glance that may seem strange, but just look at our roster of volunteers here at the Esplanade! We have one volunteer who has been actively volunteering for more than 14 years, and is now celebrating her 80th birthday this month, (Happy Birthday Penny!) — and she isn’t alone. Of our 170 active volunteers, more than 92 per cent of them are over the age of 65. Together, they contribute more than 10,000 volunteer hours to the Esplanade each year. We have many wonderful volunteers who keep young at heart — and body — through the activity of volunteering.

In addition to mental health benefits, according to a study from Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, adults over the age of 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers. The simple act of volunteering helps keep you physically active, and has positive effects on your physical health. Who needs a more encouraging way to motivate yourself to get out and move? If you’re looking for a reason, then volunteering can be it. Helping others, which in turn, helps yourself; now that sounds a lot more palatable than a juice cleanse (unless you’re into that sort of thing).

There are lots of opportunities to stay active and keep healthy in your community, and the benefits of volunteering can help keep your mental and physical wellbeing in tip-top shape. So, maybe some of you are great at that 6 a.m. wake up call to head to the gym, but if not, and you want to still focus on your health in 2019, why not try adding a little dose of volunteering to your healthy lifestyle!

Jennifer Utrera Barrientos is Volunteer Coordinator at the Esplanade

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