You probably know that volunteering helps ease depression and increase happiness. But can it make you thinner? Surprisingly, yes. In honor of National Volunteer Week (April 10-16), we’re highlighting three ways volunteering can help you shed pounds.

  1. It burns calories. A Johns Hopkins University study found that older adults who volunteered 15 hours a week in an elementary school burned twice as many calories when they volunteered versus when they didn’t. Because of the increase in activity — traveling to and from the school, walking hallways, climbing stairs, etc.  — they were also able to gain muscle strength, which is important for mobility, especially as we age.
  2. It reduces body mass index. In another study, high school students who volunteered in an after-school program at a local elementary school an hour a week for 10 weeks had lower body fat and cholesterol levels than those who didn’t volunteer. Those who reported the highest levels of empathy and altruism volunteering also saw the biggest improvements in heart health, say the researchers, suggesting that the mind can have a powerful impact over the health of the body.
  3. It reduces stress. The majority of people — 78 percent in one survey — report that volunteering decreases stress levels. When you’re less stressed, you’re more apt to be in control of your eating and food choices.

This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be an exhaustive examination of the subject matter nor a substitute for medical advice. Always consult your primary care physician or healthcare provider before beginning any diet or exercise program.