The Holiday Season is a time for giving, and that includes supporting causes and organizations that make our communities stronger.
It’s in this spirit that Chicago physical therapist Marc Gregory Guillen shares some holiday giving suggestions which offer a more healthful return than simply writing a check.
“As a physical therapist, my goal is to improve lives and the community by helping people move better and live healthier, more active lives,” said Guillen, owner of Free Body Physical Therapy & Wellness in East Humboldt Park / Wicker Park. “It’s based on this that I thought to offer some ideas for how people can give back to their communities while, at the same time, also benefiting from various levels of physical activity.”
Give Back and Be Fit
Such an approach to holiday giving, Guillen adds, isn’t just about contributing to one’s 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, as recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services.
“The holidays are a pretty stressful time for a lot of people, and exercise is a proven way to reduce stress and anxiety while improving overall happiness,” Guillen said. “It just so happens giving and volunteering provide similar health benefits. Put them together, and you’re likely to experience a more joyful and relaxing holiday season.”
That said, Guillen suggests the following five ways to give back and be fit this Holiday Season:
Volunteer ‘Sweat Equity’
There are lots of ways to volunteer during the holidays, and many involve various levels of physical activity. Collecting gift donations for a local children’s charity, for instance, or helping sort and deliver food donations for a food pantry, requires time, muscle and (if it’s a charitable year) good endurance.
Do a Charity Fun Run
Running continues to grow in popularity, and so do charity fun runs – even during the colder months of the year. Registration for these runs typically goes to local charities, and some allow for added individual or team fundraising so you can maximize your donation. Check your local event calendar for options.
Lend a Neighbor a Hand
Most of us have neighbors who could use a helping hand on occasion, be they elderly, disabled, alone, or short on time or money. The holidays are a great time to check in with them and see if they could use some help with physical tasks like yard work, clearing the driveway of snow or ice, putting out Christmas decorations, or even childcare.
Walk Your Best Friends
Are animals your passion? Perfect! Animals need exercise just like people do, and most animal shelters welcome volunteers eager to play with and walk the dogs and cats. Not only is walking great exercise for both people and pets, but spending time with animals can also lower stress and blood pressure.
Arm Your Smartphone
If the interpersonal aspect of volunteering doesn’t quite fit your personality, you still have options. Some smartphone apps exist (Charity Miles is the most prominent) that allow you to convert workout miles and/or daily activity into donations to reputable nonprofit organizations.
“Of course, if one or more of these ideas sound appealing, but discomfort, pain or a movement limitation is holding you back from giving back in this way, come by the physical therapy clinic,” Guillen said. “We can assess the issue and put you on a path toward being more active – both physically and as a contributor to your community.”