Workout Your Heart

February 20, 2014

I know what you’re thinking. This is the one where she gives us that tired old advice of exercising daily.
And while that is essential to heart health (really essential…), I am thinking about working out your heart in another way… especially during these challenging times in which we live.
Volunteering has a long history in the United States. We have a rich history of people giving of themselves, their time and their resources with no expectation of compensation.
But as it turns out, all volunteers may be getting ‘paid back’ in ways they could not imagine. Researchers have long worked to discover what creates what they call the ‘helper’s high,’ that sense of well-being that comes with service to others.
Over the past two decades, research has begun to emerge that there’s more to volunteerism than social benefits; there are health benefits…enjoyed by the volunteers themselves. It seems that those who give of themselves have lower mortality rates, lower rates of depression, greater functional ability and you guessed it…healthier hearts. Not only providing self-satisfaction and a sense of purpose, volunteering provides people with a social network…a real one, not a virtual one…that can help prevent social isolation, making us happier and healthier.
A Duke University study of people with post-coronary artery disease revealed that if they took on volunteerism, they were less likely to suffer from despair and depression, developed a sense of purpose, resulting in healthier hearts.
Now more than ever, it’s time we all give of ourselves to make the world a better place. From helping a neighbor to watching a harried mother’s kids while she goes to the gym or grocery store, volunteering at a school to baking cookies for a friend; from protecting the vulnerable to helping the underserved, helping others improves the quality of life around you…and your heart will swell with pride, joy and good health.