January 23, 2009
Posted: 08:53 AM ET
A stronger community is not the only benefit of volunteering. It can also improve your health. New research from the Mayo Clinic shows that people who volunteer have lower rates of heart disease and live longer. Previous studies have shown that people who volunteer are overall more physically and mentally fit than those who don’t.
Researchers say to reap these health benefits, strive to volunteer 40 to 100 hours a year-that’s breaks down to just a few hours a week.
Here are some tips on how to get started:
Be open-minded: Its important to volunteer service doing something you enjoy, but don’t be afraid to think outside your comfort zone. Volunteer opportunities are available not only in schools, nursing homes and churches but also at your local art center, animal shelter or state park. There are activities that can involve group settings or that you can do privately. There is something for everyone.
Make realistic commitments: Some may think it will be too hard to juggle family, work and volunteering, but if you make realistic commitments, you’ll be able to make a difference while still managing your life. When researching volunteer options, be honest with yourself, and the organizers about how much time you can commit.
Looking for ways to volunteer? Click here to search for opportunities in your local neighborhood.
Be sure to tune in to Dr. Sanjay Gupta every weekend on HOUSE CALL. You'll find the answers to your medical questions Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 a.m. ET on CNN.
Posted by: Dr. Sanjay Gupta - CNN Chief Medical Correspondent
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