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ISSUE Volunteering for a social cause can help you keep good health

Volunteering can help develop a healthier cardiovascular system and stave off cardiac disease in as little as 10 weeks, says a U.S. study.

The research bolsters the evidence that devoting time and energy to a cause not only makes people feel good, it also impacts physical wellbeing positively.

Hannah Schreier, from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, says, “The volunteers who reported the greatest increases in empathy, altruistic behaviour and mental health were the ones who also saw the greatest improvements in their cardiovascular health.”

Schreier led the study looking at the effect of volunteering on adolescents’ physical health while working at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, the Journal of American Medical Association Paediatrics reports.

The study involved 106 teenagers from an urban, inner-city Vancouver high school who were split into two groups, a group that volunteered regularly for 10 weeks and a group that was wait-listed for volunteer activities.

Researchers measured the students’ body mass index (BMI), inflammation levels which affect heart’s health and cholesterol scores before and after the study.

The volunteer group of students spent one hour per week working with elementary school children in after-school programmes in their neighbourhood.

After 10 weeks they had lower levels of inflammation and cholesterol and lower (body mass index) BMIs than the students who were wait-listed.

Schreier says, “It was encouraging to see how a social intervention to support members of the community also improved the health of adolescents.”

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