Exercising is a good thing. Volunteering is a good thing. Why not combine them?
Service-minded physical activity is a very inspiring way to work out, and it makes the world a better place, too. Whether you already lead an active lifestyle, or whether you are searching for some inspiration to become more active, this article features 5 ways to be active and improve the world at the same time.
- Raise money for charity while training for an event.
Instead of just doing a fitness event for the physical challenge, why not include a fundraising component as well? There are charity fitness events for all ages, fitness levels, and for every distance imaginable, ranging from 1-mile walks to 100-mile bike rides. You could sign-up for an event in your area, or you could travel to a new city or foreign country to turn your event into an even bigger adventure.
The largest charity endurance training program is Team in Training (TNT), a fundraising program by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). TNT volunteers train to complete a marathon, half marathon, triathlon, cycle event, or hike, while raising money to support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s fight against blood cancers. The organization has raised over $1 billion to date.
2. Teach group exercise classes.
Since 2009, I’ve taught group exercise classes in my free time. One of the classes is a “Sports Conditioning” class on Monday nights at a Gold’s Gym near my home. The other class is a free track workout that I host for people in my community, including people who take my classes at Gold’s Gym. These classes have given me a platform to help hundreds of people be more active, and it’s impossible to quantify the positive impact that teaching these classes has had on my life.
You could teach classes for a gym, or you could start your own workout group in your community. If you do the former, you’ll likely get a free membership and an hourly wage also.
Not sure what to teach? Well, there are all kinds of class formats, including indoor cycling, high-intensity interval training, dancing, kickboxing, strength training, yoga, Pilates, and so on. You could also teach classes that cater to a specific audience, such as youth, young professionals, or seniors.
3. Volunteer with a charity that encourages youth to be active.
If you enjoy working with kids, you could volunteer with an organization that inspires young people to be healthy and active. For example, Girls on The Run encourages pre-teen girls to develop healthy lifestyles through an experience-based curriculum, which includes running. The organization works in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
While Girls on The Run is a national organization, most cities have local organizations, too. For example, Teens Run DC is a non-profit near me in the Washington, D.C. area. The organization combines mentoring and distance running and serves hundreds of middle and high school students in the D.C. area.
4. Volunteer with a charity that encourages people with disabilities to be active.
There are also charities that encourage disabled people to be active. For example, Achilles International empowers people with all types of disabilities to participate in mainstream running events in order to promote personal achievement. As of 2018, the organization has over 25 chapters throughout the U.S., in addition to international chapters in more than 30 countries.
My brother, Matt, lives in Manhattan and volunteers with the New York City chapter of Achilles International. Matt serves as a running guide for a blind man named Charles. They wear a belt that connects them at the hip during exercise. Matt provides verbal guidance, as they run with other volunteers. These are not leisurely jogs though. They run fast and far. Matt and Charles have completed the New York City Marathon together in under four hours!
5. Volunteer with a charity that encourages at-risk people to be active.
You could also get involved with an organization that helps at-risk people to be more active. For example, Back on My Feet (BOMF) is a non-profit organization that uses running and community to inspire and support individuals from homelessness to independence. As of 2018, the organization is located in 12 major cities in the U.S.
I’ve volunteered with BOMF’s D.C. chapter since 2011. Each week, I join a group of volunteers and homeless people for a 5:45 a.m. team walk/run in Washington, D.C. (Some of the members and volunteers walk, while others jog or run.) It’s such an inspiring group to be part of, and it’s always one of the highlights of my week.
Combining exercise and volunteerism is an incredibly inspiring way to be active. Regardless of your age, your fitness level, your schedule, or your interests, there are many organizations that would love your help. I encourage you to research charities in your area and to donate at least one hour of your time each week. Based on my experience, it will definitely be worth it.
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About the author: Pete Leibman is the creator of StrongerHabits.com and he’s the author of Work Stronger; Habits for More Energy, Less Stress, and Higher Performance at Work. Before writing Work Stronger, Pete worked as an executive recruiter for Heidrick & Struggles, a leadership advisory firm who serves the majority of the Fortune 500. In his free time, he teaches one of the largest group exercise classes in the Washington, D.C. area, and he has competed in the Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) World Championships.