Archived Story

Niles-Buchanan YMCA: Volunteering boosts health

Published 4:59pm Thursday, November 15, 2012

You Are The Y

By The Niles-Buchanan YMCA

Living a healthy life involves more than diet and exercise. Research clearly shows that volunteering is good for your health.

Numerous studies have shown that people who do volunteer work for two or more hours per week have lower rates of depression and heart disease, live happier more fulfilled lives and have greater self-esteem and greater function. This is especially true for older adults.

Physical health

• A University of Michigan study showed volunteers with a history of heart disease had reduced chest pain and cholesterol levels compared to non-volunteers.

• Older adults that volunteer regularly enjoy a longer lifespan.

• Volunteers recover more quickly from surgery, sleep better and have healthier immune systems.

• States with higher volunteer rates have lower incidence of heart disease.

Mental/emotional health

• Volunteering directly influences the self-esteem of all ages: feeling useful, needed, valued and appreciated builds a sense of worth.

• Volunteering gives a person a sense of purpose and satisfaction

• When retired or unemployed, volunteering can addstructure to the day.

• When focused on helping others, it takes the focus off our own troubles and puts those troubles into perspective.

• Volunteering promotes creativity, hard work and provides the opportunity to have a greater impact on community and individuals.

• Recent studies have found that adolescents who volunteer do better in school, avoid more risky behaviors and feel more positive about themselves.

• Volunteers demonstrate an increase in cognitive function and have a reduced incidence of anxiety and depression.

Social health

• You build a great support system through volunteering.

• Volunteering keeps you socially connected, which is directly related to better physical and emotional health.

Occupational health

• You can learn new skills through volunteering, which helps to beef up your resume.

• Volunteering can lead to opportunities for a paid position.

Just like starting an exercise program, start off by doing something — anything. During the holidays, it is easy to get involved. You can help with a children’s program at the library, ring the bell for Salvation Army or participate in a food drive for a food pantry. Want to volunteer on Thanksgiving Day? You can volunteer at the 31st annual Thanksgiving Day Run that raises funds so that anyone, regardless of income, can get a membership at the YMCA. Visit your local volunteer center at for more ideas on volunteering.

Make volunteering part of your healthy living plans.

You are the Y: The Niles Buchanan YMCA’s column shares information youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.  Send story ideas to

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