11 Ways to Get in Shape While Doing Good


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Volunteers who sign up for the right opportunity can get in shape while helping others and improving the community. These 11 common volunteer activities also involve time outdoors enjoying spring and summer weather. To find a specific opportunity, look to local classifieds, online job boards, and volunteer sites such as VolunteerMatch. Some large cities also have volunteer matching services (such as Chicago Cares and New York Cares) that can help residents find opportunities based on their interests and availability.

Grab a bag and some gloves and head outside to pick up trash on the block or in a nearby park. To increase the impact, organize a group to head out together, or look to see if there already are scheduled trash-pickup days. Picking up trash may not be glamorous, but the result will be appreciated.

Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, the 40-year-old nonprofit that builds, renovates, and improves homes around the world. More than 1,400 affiliates throughout the United States welcome volunteers of all skill levels. Lend a hand and help improve someone else's living situation.

Turn an empty plot into a garden that can be enjoyed and tended by neighborhood residents. Community gardens are especially popular in urban areas where people may not have a yard to raise plants of their own. The USDA's People's Garden Initiative has resources for starting a garden and, for those who want to get involved with maintenance or planting, a database of established gardens.

Spring and summer are prime time for youth sports leagues. Volunteers can coach a team or referee and are sure to get a good workout every game. Find opportunities with the YMCA or Boys & Girls Clubs, or search for local requests for volunteers.

Sign up for a charity walk, run, or marathon and raise money to support a good cause. Set a goal for the summer, such as one event each month, or train for a single large goal and tackle a half-marathon or marathon -- soliciting donations from friends and family to help the cause.

National Bike to Work Day is recognized each year in May, but why not make the extra exercise a more regular practice? This may not be a possibility for everyone, but biking rather than driving provides exercise, saves money, and reduces pollution. To make a direct impact, take the money that would go toward gas and donate it to a charitable cause.

Those looking for a less extreme workout can volunteer to lead exercise classes or activities for the elderly. Depending on the opportunity, volunteers may have to go through a training or already have experience as a fitness instructor or trainer. Activities may include walking groups, seated exercises with light weights, or yoga classes.

Find out if local religious, charitable, or government organizations are putting on summer festivals and volunteer to help assemble, run, or break down the event. (As a bonus, volunteers may get free admission tickets.) Ask for a task that requires staying active, such as cleaning up a food court area, or there's a risk of winding up in a sedentary job such as ticket checker.Related: 11 Tips for Saving Money on Summer Events

Volunteering as a camp counselor can be an opportunity for personal growth while staying active and giving back. Counselors lead and teach while inspiring and entertaining kids at an overnight or day camp.

Throw on some old clothes and pick up a brush. Repainting a school can add life to an aging building. Summer may be a good time to organize or join a paint day, as students are on break and the heat will help the paint dry quickly.

Volunteer vacations are popular in the United States and abroad. Companies such as REI do all the planning for trips to maintain and restore trails in Yosemite National Park, for example, or help with sea turtle and giant tortoise preservation on the Galapagos Islands. Both are expensive but long, only moderate in difficulty, and highly rated by previous volunteers.

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