Can Volunteering Help You Lose Weight?

Forget Atkins or Weight Watchers, the next diet fad may just be volunteering. A recent study found that Canadian tenth-graders who volunteered at an after-school program for children, lost more weight and had better cholesterol than their classmates who did not volunteer.

In the journal JAMA Pediatrics, the researchers concluded:

“Adolescents who volunteer to help others also benefit themselves, suggesting a novel way to improve health.”

And the benefits of volunteering do not stop with students. A study at Washington University in St. Louis, found that adults who began tutoring children through a program called Experience Corps demonstrated improvements in stamina, memory, and flexibility, as well as levels of depression.

In other research, volunteers have been found to spend 38 percent fewer nights in the hospital and more likely to get flu shots, mammograms, Pap smears, cholesterol tests, and prostate exams.

“What this shows is that volunteers make decisions about their health that are different from non-volunteers,” said Sara Konrath, is the director of the Interdisciplinary Program on Empathy and Altruism Research at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “One way to think about this is that when we care for ourselves, in a fundamental way, it allows us to care for others.”

So, if you are looking to lose a few lbs and improve your health and well-being this year, a great place to start is to give up some of your free time and lend a hand to others.

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