We’ve all heard about how getting out in the community and doing good for others is also doing good for yourself. But is it really? Is giving up what free time you have really going to be beneficial for you? We seem to live in a fast paced world these days and our time is precious: we’ve earned it and we want to spend it the best way we possibly can!
But what if volunteering really can help your body? What if spending around 2 hours per week helping others, whether it be sorting clothes for an Op Shop, manning a fundraising stall or doing something for the environment, can help reduce the decline in physical ability in older adults?
A recent study in the United States says it can! They studied adults 51 years or older for 16 years, gathering information every 2 years. Some of the participants did not volunteer at all during the study, others volunteered fewer than 2 hours per week, while others volunteered for more than 2 hours per week.
On average, those who volunteered for fewer than 2 hours per week showed a 34% less decline in physical ability than those who didn’t volunteer at all. For those who volunteered for more than 2 hours per week the effect nearly doubled: they showed 63% less decline in physical ability than those who didn’t volunteer at all! Was there a difference between genders? According to the study yes there was. They found that men who volunteered 2 hours per week experienced a 105% less decline!
To find out more about the study, click here.
Okay, so what about your mind? Other studies, and there have been many, show that volunteering can substantially reduce the development of dementia. Meeting new people, learning new activities and developing new skills can boost endorphins, those ‘feel good’ brain cells that keep your heart pumping, your mind sharp and your immune system working. It’s the brain’s working memory and processing capacity that benefits most from volunteering.
The key is to start volunteering earlier rather than later but it’s never too late!
Want to reap some of these great benefits? Visit your local Volunteer Centre (NZ) today and find out how you can help in your community.
We at Volunteering Bay of Plenty work to increase the quality and quantity of volunteering in the area and provide information, support and guidance to potential and existing volunteers and to Not for Profit Organisations. Check out our website at www.volbop.org.nz or phone us on (07) 571 3714 Monday-Thursday 10am-2pm.