There’s more to walking the dogs at the shelter, or helping prepare meals at a feeding scheme, say experts. We know that it feels good, but research shows that volunteering regularly (not just painting a school once-off at your company’s CSI days) has long-term benefits for your health too.
Hippo.co.za asked me to write a blog post on how Volunteering is Good For Your Health, based on a study by Carnegie Mellon University. The study showed that volunteer work contributes to lower blood pressure, possibly as a result of an increase in physical activity among those who might not usually be active.
The study showed that 200 hours of volunteering per year correlated to lower blood pressure. Other studies have found a health benefit from as little as 100 hours a year.
Aside from the physical benefits, research has also shown significant benefits of volunteering for mental health. According to a 2013 study by UnitedHealth Group, 94% of people who volunteered felt it improved their mood, 78% of those who volunteered reported that their stress levels had reduced, while 96% who volunteered felt that it improved their sense of purpose in life.
Volunteering also has social and feel-good elements – people connect with others while working towards a cause. The study by UnitedHealth Group also showed that volunteers have more control over their health, and are more likely to seek medical advice than non-volunteers.
Health is one of our most important assets, so while you’re thinking about your health, revisit your Medical Aid to make sure you and your family are adequately covered in the event of illness.
Aside from all the health benefits, volunteering also exposes kids to people from very different walks of life, and fosters an appreciation for all the good things they have (by seeing those less fortunate than them).
Volunteering gives kids a sense of purpose, fosters confidence, teaches leadership skills, and shows them how little things can make a big difference.
For more information on how and where to volunteer in SA, head to BetterSA.
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