There are certain things that are more valuable than money. At least that is what our spending patterns seem to indicate. When it comes to commodity items like foods, coffee, clothing, technology, we are willing to spend more money than absolutely necessary because we choose to spend in a way that makes us feel good about what that money supports. For example: you may spend more money on coffee that is free trade, a few more cents for the free range eggs, or buy shoes or socks because the company promises to put the same thing on the feet of a needy person somewhere in the world. The point is, you are more likely to partake in an exchange that you feel good about. So why not apply the same mindset to your exercise habits?

You have made being healthy and active a priority in your life. In your exercise schedule, the currency is often time as well as money. How can you make the precious little time and other resources you have to spare work double time to serve your body and heart? The answer is a new trend in fitness being called active volunteering. Active volunteering is a way for folks that like to work with their hands, be involved in promoting physical activity, make their exercise count towards giving back, or just prefer ways of selfless service that take them out of their seats. It is a mindset of charitable giving while challenging yourself to do something you may not have done otherwise.

Active volunteering can motivate you in many new directions. It is a great technique to make yourself accountable to do something active on a regular basis. When you know that you’re helping out those in need and that people are counting on you to be there, you are much more likely to keep the date and follow through. It also gives you a chance to connect with a very specific cause that you believe in in a meaningful way. By giving back physically, you also have a chance to inspire others to be active by appealing to their sense of community and service rather than an obligation to self-improvement. For some, it can be trading ‘exercise out of a sense of guilt or shame’ for ‘being active to feel good about doing good’. I don’t think I need to tell you which is more likely to become a habit. Inspiring folks in your circle to go with you on your journey can serve your cause as well as help connect you and your peers with a more active lifestyle. Those are two things you can be proud of.

There are tons of great local organizations in your area that could make good use of your willingness to work and workout for a cause. A short search on the internet can bring up lots of small, grassroots groups that are aspiring to make an impact. Whether you’re looking for a regular, weekly thing or just want to add a few events on your yearly calendar to keep active volunteering on your radar, it all starts by finding your thing. Here are a few different types of ways you can get moving on doing good as well as some ideas on organizations to help you get started.

Animal Shelters

Animal shelters and rescues are always in need of some good old fashioned labor. Of course they’ll need folks to clean cages and general housekeeping. But if that’s not exactly what you had in mind, you may be a good candidate for a puppy playdate. They often are in need of volunteers to take the pets out for walks and some general tomfoolery to help the pups get a workout and burn off some pent up anxiety. The National Humane Society is a great place to start. They can help connect you locally as well as give you ideas on where to direct funds to have an impact with a broader reach.

Habitat for Humanity

If you have a specific skill or are just willing to take direction and get your hands dirty, helping on a Habitat for Humanity build may be a great place for you. You can connect with your local Habitat for Humanity to access their build calendar and see what is on the agenda for your area. This is also a great option for people that are not in a place to make a long term, regular commitment. You can spend as much time as you have to give, rally some allies and have a great day giving back. There is also something to be said for being able to see the fruits of your labors in a very tangible way.

Local Cleanups

Every community has things that could stand a little improvement as well as residents that could use a helping hand doing some basic yard cleanup. You can hit up your local parks and recreations department or a local faith based organization to connect with existing projects or a list of individual homes that have expressed need. If you’re a real self-starter, you can initiate your own project based on needs that you have identified and create community partnerships to get the job done.

Charity Walks/Runs/Rides

Participating in a local 5K or fun run is a great way to challenge yourself to get out and move while donating to a great cause. Your area organizations are putting these on all the time. Whether it is a local fire department, charity, or school, they are a great way to inspire communities to be active while drumming up some revenue for a good cause.

Coach or Supervise Youth or Special Needs Activities

Is there really a better reason to get out and get yourself active than to inspire and enable the youngsters or special needs individuals in your community to be active? Being a mentor is a fantastically rewarding way to give back. If you love sports, this is a natural fit. Your parks and recreation and local YMCA’s are always in need of responsible and committed adult mentors to help in their team sports programs. If coaching is too much of a commitment, you may want to look into volunteering at active events for special needs communities like Special Olympics or other local organizations that support a diverse spectrum of physical/environmental needs. Many communities also have non-profit ‘gyms’ or centers that specialize in providing an environment for both kids and adults with special neurological needs a place to engage in physical activity that serves their particular needs. They rely on a staff of volunteers to provide safe places for this very precious population to move and express themselves physically.

You can easily find a way to follow your heart to fitness in a way that fits both your values and your practical scheduling needs. Paying it forward to help others is a beautiful way to express gratitude for as well as care for the capable body that you have.

Kristin Kuykendall

Owner, Well Hello Fitness
Master Personal Trainer/ Sports Nutritionist/ Coach

Kristin Kuykendall is a Master Personal Trainer and Sports Nutritionist. Her credentials are backed by a BFA from Kendall College of Art and Design and further studies in Human Health Sciences from Oakland University.

With a passion for helping people acquire skills to promote the longest possible health span, Kristin has coached numerous clients to feel their best. She has brought this passion to her work as a private nutrition and exercise programming coach, personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and nutritionist. Kristin has been responsible for helping a wide range of clients achieve their individual goals, from competitive athletes to individualized healthy fat loss.

She has personally achieved professional and world standing both as a Physique and Figure bodybuilding competitor. All this while raising kids with her loving husband/partner in this crazy life. When she’s not playing in the kitchen or spending time with her family, you may find her working as a judge and promoter for natural bodybuilding competitions.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information from this article for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read in this article.