Volunteering can improve your health in later years

We respect and admire volunteers for their devotion to a cause and their willingness to sacrifice their own needs for the needs of others. These selfless acts can often be life-changing for the person on the receiving end, but what about the person volunteering?

The health benefits of volunteering are well-documented and include reduced stress and an increased feeling of self worth. It is no wonder that for many people with chronic conditions, volunteering can even help maintain or improve one?s physical health.

Hand in Hand for RA (handinhandforRA.com) is a national awareness campaign that encourages people with the painful chronic joint disease rheumatoid arthritis to learn about the benefits of volunteering and share their own inspirational stories.

?Volunteering is a huge part of my life that has really helped me through some tough times dealing with a chronic disease,? said Seth Ginsberg, cofounder and president of grassroots arthritis group CreakyJoints, a sponsor of the campaign.

?Things as simple as getting involved with senior citizens in your local community?reading to them, driving them to the grocery store and even just talking with them?all help keep your mind off your disease.?

When Debbie McGrady, a 55-year-old mother of two and part-time bank teller, was diagnosed with RA, she decided she wasn?t going to allow the disease to take over her life. McGrady has gotten involved with Hand in Hand for RA and has found volunteering to be very rewarding and fun as she drives seniors to their doctor?s appointments, to the drugstore and on other errands.

?Helping others and giving back to the community has assisted me in keeping the focus on my life and not on my disease,? she said. ?Volunteering can be as simple as supervising children at an after-school program or coaching your child?ren?s sports team.?

Volunteering also is a way to connect with others and offers people living with RA an opportunity to talk about their disease and communicate with people going through the same things.

To take advantage of what your community may offer or to find ideas, try visiting your local recreation center, YMCA or town hall. These places post community activities and list where volunteers are needed.

Also, visit the Hand in Hand for RA Web site to learn about how other RA volunteers are giving back.

Other tips on volunteering for RA patients include:

? Participate in a beautification project by planting a garden.

? Get involved in a local fundraiser for a good cause; or create one.

? Deliver meals to seniors in town.

? Help paint a local house in disrepair.

? Mentor youth.

? Volunteer at an animal shelter.

Before starting on any new activity, it is important to talk first with a health-care provider about what volunteer activities would be the best to pursue based on your individual health status.

?Courtesy of ARAcontent

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