It is incredible how the simple act of spreading kindness can trigger positive emotions. The mood boost that we can experience from volunteer work helps us feel happier and healthier by reducing stress and anxiety. We also know about the endless health benefits of exercise. What if you got even more bang for the buck by choosing volunteer activities that were also physical? Not only will you get a double dose of happiness, but you’ll also burn calories, build stamina, and strengthen muscles while doing something positive for your community. Here are some top tips for benefitting your body and community at the same time.
Walks/Runs: Many organizations raise money by holding a walk or run in which participants fundraise to take part in the event. You can search the site Active for national organizations that have events throughout the United States. Some of the most well-known runs include American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, March of Dimes’ March for Babies, and Susan G. Komen’s Race for the Cure. While some events require training, others are family-friendly with many participants pushing strollers. There are even pet walks, such as those organized for local Human Society chapters. You’ll be sure to find something that fits both your charitable interest and fitness level.
Habitat for Humanity: By volunteering with this reputable organization, you can help families by building and improving their homes. You will definitely break a sweat while painting, hammering nails, sawing, and lifting construction items for the project. You can look for Habitat projects in your community or travel to help those in need.
Gardening/Farm Work: Gardening is a relaxing, yet physical activity that also allows you to enjoy being outside in nature. Look for opportunities to volunteer in local community gardens, which increase the amount of green space, build positive community interaction, and many also provide fresh produce to those in need. You’ll enjoy planting seeds, weeding, and picking fruits and vegetables. The American Community Garden Association has created this handy map to help you discover community gardens in your area. You can also contact a local farm to see if they need help with activities like weeding, planting seeds, sifting compost, digging, or watering. Ask about or organize your own gleaning project, which involves picking leftover crops from a farmer’s field after they have been commercially harvested and donating the produce locally. Bonus: you can get healthy foods to boost your healthy lifestyle.
Teaching Sports: If you are a talented athlete, you can volunteer to coach marginalized youth. There are many programs that you can find locally or through national organizations, such as Girls on the Run, a program that teaches the connection between physical and emotional health through activities including a confidence-building 5K run. You can also volunteer to help the Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, who participate in challenging outdoors activities like hiking.
Park and Beach Clean Ups: Nature provides so much it’s important that we all do our part to help keep it pristine. One way that we can do this is by participating in a trash cleanup at a local beach or park. You will definitely burn some calories walking along the beach or around the park and bending down to pick up garbage. In addition, you will feel better—volunteers tend to be happier and less stressed after spending time outside cleaning up their local environment. Find beach cleanups through Ocean Conservancy, Surfrider Foundation, and volunteercleanup.org.
Sandi Schwartz is a freelance writer/blogger and mother of two. She has written extensively about parenting, wellness, and environmental issues. You can find her at www.happysciencemom.com. Get her free course on raising happy, balanced kids at bit.ly/2i53TDV.