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Big hearts are stronger – volunteer your way to better health!

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Have you been thinking lately about how you might contribute to your community? Sharon Johnson, associate professor and OSU Extension faculty member in Southern Oregon thinks we should. She says the benefits work both ways. “Studies demonstrate that people who volunteer in their community are notably healthier. Those folks who become foster grandparents or regularly work in a food pantry or soup kitchen or read to low-literacy kids have notably greater physical and mental well-being. They are not just healthy – but healthier.”

Studies abound that show the connection between volunteering your time and personal wellness. The findings are quite compelling she says. “Volunteers have greater longevity, lower rates of depression and less incidence of heart disease.

For folks over age 70, the point at which we can be fairly assured of getting that wellness benefit is only about 100 hours a year – that’s only about two hours a week! There’s a new book out titled Why Good Things Happen to Good People: The exciting new research and proves the link between doing good and leading a longer, healthier, happier life by Stephen Post and Jill Neimark. It features studies that indicate our motivations may be altruistic, but the effort translates into individual health benefits.

“Don’t you think all of this gives new meaning to the phrase, ‘You gotta have heart?'” ponders Johnson. “It could be as easy as a few hours a week, doing something you love, in the community you live. Help others, help yourself, have a (healthy!) heart.”